The Amazon link for Linda's paperback is:http://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Grandpas-Grapevine-Linda-Massucci/dp/1622085728/ref=la_B00JNFS5LY_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436448221&sr=1-1
"You should write because you can't not write, not in the hopes of getting published. The characters and message in the book should matter to you. If you're worried about what a publisher is looking for or if anyone will want to read it, than I think you're in the wrong profession. In my opinion, there are too many 'copy-cat' books out there and a lot of celebrities who get books published because companies know their name will sell the material. As an avid reader, I look for books that inspire, educate and allow me to use my imagination."
Linda's books allow the reader to contemplate the importance of family, faith, values and how the actions each person takes in life always affect other people. Whether she is writing fiction or non-fiction, Linda's stories continue to inspire us all to reflect on our actions and live everyday to the fullest!
I can’t recall the first memory I have of my Grandpa Frank, but I can recall the many Sundays at his home just listening to him speak. He told stories of coming to America with ten dollars in his pocket and his best girl by his side. When he laughed, you could see his stained teeth from all those cigars he smoked since the age of twelve. His face was worn from working outside at the trolley yards and his hands had calluses and scars. Grandpa Frank was a slim man with wavy white hair. I’m sure, in his youth, he must have been an attractive man, but to me he was just my Grandpa Frank. An old man who always had time to sit with me and listen to my worries, hopes, and insecurities. Whether I was eight years old or sixteen years old, I could always depend on Grandpa Frank for a listening ear. He was never hard to find either. From my house to his, it was a quick bike ride and all downhill too! Pass the town bank, cross the street at the market, turn left across the tracks, and you entered the Italian side of town. Grandpa Frank and Grandma Marie moved into the two story white house after they left Brooklyn. Grandpa said the Italian section was called Goat’s Island, because so many of the families had goats in their yards. I don’t remember Grandpa Frank having goats- I guess he got too tired of taking care of them. There was one thing he never got tired of caring for, and that was his grapevine. That is where I could always find my Grandpa Frank. He loved to sit under that grapevine and smoke his cigars. He would watch the trains pass by and think out loud about where it might be going. The grapevine was his place to think about all the yesterdays, the struggles he and Grandma Marie overcame while raising a family, and maybe to ponder how many more days he would be blessed with her in his life. I always got a feeling of excitement when I saw my Grandpa Frank sitting under his grapevine. I knew whatever problems I had, he could fix with a story or words of wisdom. I had to listen carefully as he spoke in his broken English, but I didn’t mind taking my time with Grandpa Frank. He always seemed so confident and brave in my eyes, why would I want to rush away from such a man. I thought, in my youth, he would always be there for me. I guess that’s what makes being young so wonderful- the concept of time is not fully understood. Now, I am much older and completely understand how quickly time passes. As I drive down I-84 in Connecticut and take my hometown exit, I realize Grandpa Frank will not be waiting for me under his grapevine. As an adult, I realize death is just a part of life. As a granddaughter, I just want to sit with Grandpa Frank and ask him one more question. I guess I should have come home a lot sooner.
Who would have thought I could tear myself away from all the deadlines and rewrites in the publishing world. On Tuesday morning, I received a call from my father. Grandpa Frank was not doing very well and I should take a drive to Connecticut to say goodbye. I went to work that morning to try and get all the things that can’t wait done. I rescheduled my Friday interviews for a book I was working on. It would be great to leave the city for a three day weekend in Connecticut. On Wednesday morning, I called my parents and said I would be arriving on Friday. My mother was quiet on the phone. Her only response was, ‘I guess if that’s the soonest you could get here. Your father will tell Grandpa Frank you are coming soon.’ Thursday morning, I awoke to my alarm and jumped in the shower. After I got dressed and was eating breakfast, I checked my schedule for the day. I was thinking how I could strategically move some appointments around, so I could leave Manhattan by mid-day. The phone rang. It was my mother. My Grandpa Frank had passed away in the early morning hours. I told my mother I would be home by noon.
Just off the highway, exit 32, was the place I called home. I hadn’t lived there for over 15 years, the town had changed dramatically. It’s funny how I couldn’t wait to leave the place and find excitement and real life. There still remains a part of you that secretly hopes the place will stay the same for your own greediness and insecurities. It becomes a place that you can return to with the hopes of feeling as safe as you did in your youth. I entered my hometown of Southington. I quickly understood the saying, ‘You can never go home again.’ The farms were replaced with mini-malls. Traffic lights were put in place, where once only a stop sign was needed. Grandpa’s trolley tracks were dismantled, and replaced with walking trails. The downtown merchants I recalled were no longer in business. The streets were lined with BMW’s and a Lexus or two. Extravagant homes built, where once apple orchards stood and grazing sheep roamed.
It was a far cry from the working community I remembered. There was a local pharmacy, a department store, two grocery stores, and you really did shop downtown on Thursday night. There were small businesses with loyal customers who paid on credit, with no monthly interest. You could walk down the street and know everyone you passed, and you always said hello. If you were a kid, you better behave, because someone would see you, who knew someone, who knows your father. It was a small town....it is my hometown.
As I passed the old bank, which has since been sold to a larger bank, I just had to turn my car towards the old market, left across the tracks, and drive by my Grandparents’ house. I parked in the driveway and slowly got out of my car. The house still looked the same. The windows were spotless, the house had a fresh coat of white paint, and the flower garden was immaculate. My feet traveled to the back yard. I spotted my Grandpa Frank’s grapevine. It was in perfect condition, just like I always remembered. It was nice to know some things never change. Grandpa Frank could wave to all the families using the walking trail. I pictured him smoking his cigar, glass of wine in one hand, and waving to the families with the other hand. I gave a silent chuckle and then a sigh of regret. I realized Grandpa Frank wouldn’t be sitting under this grapevine anymore. I would never smell his cigars again or listen to his stories with a strained ear, as he spoke in broken English.
“Elizabeth, I thought I’d find you here.”
I turned and saw my father walking toward me. My father looks like the typical aging Italian man. He has wavy salt and pepper hair with a mustache that matches his hair color. He is blessed with a year round tan and always walks very straight. My father has a sort of bounce to his walk, like he has not a care in the world. My mother has said I tend to walk like this, and I’m thankful for the trait. I took a second glance at his face. It’s funny how when you’re away from loved ones for a period of time, they appear to have aged when you see them again. When I’m away from my folks and think about them, their faces, in my reflections, always appear young and vibrant. Now, I see my father looking more and more like my Grandpa Frank. I guess that is all part of the cycle of life.
“Your mother told me to drive by after I went to the florist. She knows how much you like your grandparents’ house.”
“And Grandpa’s grapevine.” I gave him a hug and a kiss.
“You made good time on the road. I hope you didn’t speed.”
“Hmmm, if I was, I know where I learned it from.” My father loves to drive fast, and so do I. Of course, in Southington, it really doesn’t matter how fast you’re going. The police tend to pull anyone over who isn’t related to an officer. I guess in some ways the town is still small town America.
“I’m glad you’re here. Now I won’t be the only person your Aunts can talk about. They keep asking your mother when you would be arriving.”
My Aunts. I forgot about them. Anyone who comes from an Italian family can appreciate the secret fear I have of my Aunts. Although I have many Aunts, there are only three that cause my blood to boil as I bite my tongue and smile at their prodding questions. They live for weddings and funerals. It is their only time to check out the nieces and nephews who have moved far away. They always travel in a pack, and each seems to have a different job during the interrogation process. First, there is Aunt Sophia, the oldest sister in the pack. Her job is to start up a conversation with the niece or nephew whom the interrogation will be brought upon. Then, there is Aunt Caterina. Her job is to wait and listen for just the right time in the conversation to interrupt with a very personal and intrusive question. And then, there is Aunt Rosetta. Her job may be the most difficult of all. She must remember the responses of all those they interrogate. Then, the aunts visit other friends and families throughout the town and deliver the ever important and necessary news. The other sister of course is my Grandma Marie. I love my Grandma dearly, but she does love to gossip with her sisters. I must say she does protect me when she sees the Aunts making their interrogation triangle toward me. Through the years, I have learned to laugh at their questions and see a little of their thoughtfulness through their interrogations. Now, it will be a little different without Grandpa Frank to hide me from those pesky Aunts, under his grapevine.
“I see you bought a Buick,” said my Dad.
“Yes, I knew you would be happy to see me arrive in an American car.”
“I guess this book writing thing pays pretty well,” he said while opening my car door.
“Yes, things are going very well.” My dad still can’t comprehend that my job is actually paying the bills. I guess he comes from a generation where a job meant working at a company or factory from nine to five and retiring after twenty-five years with a gold watch. I’m sure, in his eyes, I’m that twelve-year-old girl who received three dollars a week for allowance and spent it on candy and arcade games. He is always asking if I have enough money for food and am I paying my bills on time. I really don’t mind his worrying questions. I guess there is a part in all of us that would like to stay twelve years old forever and let someone else do the worrying.
“Dad, I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner.” I tried to hold back the tears.
“Don’t give it a second thought.” “You were always there for your Grandpa Frank while he was alive. Always spending summer days with him and listening to all his stories; that seemed to get better with time.”
“Those stories he told would make a great book someday.”
“Never mind. Let’s keep some things in the family.”
“Getting nervous,” I laughed. “Maybe I shouldn’t go see my aunts. Now there are some interesting ladies.”
“What’s so interesting about your Aunts?” “They are just like anybody else’s aunts.”
“Oh dad, you have got to get out of Southington more often.”
“Just be respectful when we go over your Aunt Sophia’s house.”
“Deal, when will that be?”
“No time like the present. Follow my car. ”
“Do you think I forgot the way to my own Aunt’s house?”
“Nope, just want to make sure you don’t take a detour.” “By the way, are you married yet?” shouted my father with a grin.
“Here we go again,” I whispered to myself, as I started my American car.
The Amazon link for the paperback is:http://www.amazon.com/Days-Messiah-Two-Messiahs-Sign/dp/1622085620/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1435193871
Best selling author Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest". A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at age 21, she has continued to hone her craft and was honored to be a judge of this year's ACFW Genesis contest. Between ministry, family and working in their family businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog, or on any of the major social media sites. http://amberschamel.com/ Blog: http://www.stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberSchamel Twitter: @AmberSchamel Pintrest - http://pinterest.com/AmberDSchamel/ Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7073165.Amber_Schamel
Circa 20 A.D.
The whinny of horses pierced the night sky, echoed by the laughter of soldiers as the shadows of their plumed helmets glided against the wall. Smoke enveloped Tyrus. He stumbled out of the hut, gasping for breath and fighting the panic that shrouded him. The eerie glow of the flames danced like a pagan ritual upon the grass as he escaped the inferno.
"Tyrus! Tyrus, help me!" His little sister's desperate screams came from inside the hut.
Flames from the window frame clawed at him as Tyrus tried to reach inside. He held out as long as he could, but the sleeve of his tunic smoldered, his arm inflamed. "Topaz! Topaz, can you hear me? Where are you?"
No voice. Only crackling wood and bursting clay vessels.
He ripped off his outer tunic and tried to extinguish the flames around the window so he could get inside, but the fire was too hot and consumed the silk fabric.
The blood in his veins seemed cold as he bolted back to the door of the hut. It too was a ring of fire, but if he could make it through, perhaps he could find her and drag her out.
His pulse thundered in his ears. His arms quivered. He backed up to get a running start. Deep breath. One step, two steps, three. He was about to make the leap into the house, when the roof collapsed sending sparks and fiery debris in every direction. He fell backwards, and a gust of air escaped his lungs.
Tyrus sat up choking for breath. The back of his throat burned, as if the smoke had been more than a dream. His wife slept soundly beside him, and all was still in the dark house, but the panic and turmoil he'd felt so many years ago churned inside him once more. He got up and opened the shutters, took deep breaths of the midnight air in an attempt to slow his breathing.
So many years ago, yet the incident was still so real, so raw. And it was still his fault. His parents' hearts had been broken, their family fractured. He could not save his little sister, so she had burned alive in a deserted hut. By the time they reached their new home in Capernaum, they had nothing left. Their flight from Rome had cost them their livelihood, friends, everything they had, even the life of their youngest child. It had taken years for them to regain their footing, but none of them was ever the same.
Aaliyah stirred when he lay down again, but her breathing remained steady. He was exhausted from the panic and sorrow his dream had inflicted. He closed his eyes and saw his sister's beautiful face before him. Her perfect, dimpled smile etched on her four-year-old features. He saw her often, dreamed about her, still wept over her, but tonight, while he lay there, she was more real than ever before. As if she drew close to him.
He felt a hand slip into his. It was Topaz. Those dark eyes shone up at him like jewels. "Hello, brother."
A tear trickled down his cheek at the sound of her sweet voice. "Topaz, I am sorry."
Her finger pressed to her lips as her eyes sparkled playfully.
He opened his arms to her, and she jumped into them. Her pudgy arms encircled his neck. Was it a vision? A dream? Had he died? Whatever it was, he did not want to let go. He had dreamt of his little sister before, but she was always far away, begging him to save her. This time, it was different.
She pulled away from him and held out her hand. In her palm was a topaz-colored stone threaded by a piece of twine.
His brows knit together. "How did you get this? Aaliyah gave this stone to me years ago, before we were married, when I rescued her kitten from the cistern." He remembered the day well. He had bound the stone to a piece of twine and worn it close to his heart.
Topaz turned, as if a voice was calling her, and when her gaze returned, her expression was changed. Tears of sadness threatened to spill. Her small hand again took his. "Walk with me, Tyrus. I need to show you."
She led him into the courtyard. A ray of light illuminated everything around them. Topaz's chubby finger pointed, and Tyrus' gaze followed the direction she indicated. There, his wife sobbed in a dark corner.
"Aaliyah? What is it?"
His wife ignored him. She flung something across the room. It made a pinging sound as it bounced off the floor and rolled to a stop at his feet. He bent down and scooped it up. It was the golden bracelet he gave her upon their betrothal. His mouth dropped open. "Aaliyah?"
His wife draped herself in a black cloak, and after turning to give the house one last look, she left. His brow wrinkled as he looked back at his sister, still holding his hand.
"I am sorry, Tyrus. It will be hard for you. Be brave."
"I do not understand. Where is she going?"
Topaz led him to the door, and looking out, they watched Aaliyah slink along the city streets, hiding beneath her cloak. At last, she stopped and waited. A man approached her and began talking to her.
A hint of jealousy prodded Tyrus' heart. It was the first tinge of its kind he'd ever experienced. "Who is that? What is he saying to her?"
Topaz remained silent.
His gaze returned to his wife, who had crumpled to the ground, weeping. The man took her hands in his and raised her up. They stood for several moments, such love emanating from the man's eyes.
"No, it cannot be. Aaliyah would never be unfaithful to me. Sister, please tell me what this means."
Still Topaz said nothing.
He turned again, but Aaliyah and the man were both gone. Tyrus shook his head. "I do not understand this."
"Be brave, Tyrus." Topaz squeezed his hand. "Be brave." She backed away from him, and everything went dark.
Tyrus' eyes fluttered open. It was morning. His fist gripped the topaz stone that still hung about his neck. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. It must have been a dream. Only a dream. Thanks be to God.
He could hear Aaliyah moving about in the kitchen. He paused in the doorway and watched her. Her hands gripped the grinding stone as she goaded it back and forth. She swept the crumbles into her small hands, poured them into a pot, and hummed as she stirred it.
He shuffled into the room and stretched. He brain drummed a war march against his temples, and he felt more tired now than when he had gone to sleep. The day's work before him seemed daunting. Why did dreams have to disturb your sleep when you needed it most? He realized Aaliyah was talking to him.
"Did the sun sneak up on you today?" Her dark eyes sparkled with mischief, but her comment annoyed him. If she only knew.
"I did not sleep well." He went to the jug and splashed water on his face hoping to avoid further discussion. It didn't work.
"You tossed and turned all night; I dodged several blows from you." She offered him his breakfast, but when he reached out, she held it back. "Tell me, Tyrus, have you taken to beating your good wife in your sleep?"
"Perhaps if I did, she would behave during the day." He should not have said that. He could not hold his dreams against her. She wasn't guilty, at least as far as he knew. He smiled hoping to soften the effect of his comment and tugged the plate from her grasp, escaping into the dining room.
He had but a moment to gather his thoughts before she followed. She sat down across from him, mixing something in a bowl. He guessed it must be for the Passover meal that night.
"What disturbed your sleep, my husband?"
Why did she have to ask questions? What was he supposed to tell her?
"Dreams." He hoped the grumbled answer would satisfy.
"Dreams? What kind of dreams?"
He shoved the last bite of food into his mouth and muttered an answer. "Never mind them now. Passover is tonight, and we have a great deal of work to do. The caravan I sent to Jerusalem is returning today, and I must inventory the merchandise before my patrons show up to buy it all. I will bring our lamb in later." He moved away, hiding a grimace as he bolted for the gate. He had to get away before she pried more.
"Good morning, sir." His apprentice greeted him as he entered the shop. Portions of the shelves were bare and dust swirled in the sun's rays. "I have set up the pens for the sheep. I also moved the tapestries to make room for the other Passover items as you requested."
"Well done, Kish. I am glad you got an early start. There is much work to be done today." His apprentice glowed with the praise and continued his work.
The city gates creaked as they were forced open, and commerce began. The groaning of camels and the bleating of sheep announced the arrival of the caravan. They herded the sheep into the pens Kish had set up, and unloaded bags of salt, grains, figs, nuts and other items needed for the celebration.
“Cattle Drive,” by Western author Big Jim Williams, is a fictional tale of an 1873 cattle drive across North Texas during a hot summer, a cattleman’s desperate attempt to push 3,000 longhorns to a market to avoid financial ruin. The tale includes a cattle stampede, gun battles, gamblers, double crosses, greed, broken promises, soiled doves, 11 dead bodies, and Western action Big Jim hopes readers will enjoy.
When a water baron refuses to sell water to save the cattleman’s dying herd, that leads to gunplay spearheaded by Buck Longworth, the cattle drive’s reluctant trail boss, and his sidekick, Rafferty O’Rourke. The “Cattle Drive” book also comes with a twist ending.
“Cattle Drive,” Big Jim says, is a book he started writing nights and weekends years ago while working fulltime as a publicist grinding out press releases that often boarded on fiction. Big Jim loves writing Western fiction, says it’s great to let ones imagination ride through the Old West in search of cowboys, outlaws, legends, pioneers, ladies of the night and bonnet-clad women, and, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” if he may steal a movie title from Clint Eastwood.
“Cattle Drive” is Big Jim Williams’ first novel. However, his many Western stories have appeared in magazines, Websites, and anthologies. His collected short stories are in two audio books, “Tall Tales of The Old West,” which Big Jim narrated, and, “The Old West.”
If you would like to purchase Big Jim's award-winning novel,here is the Amazon link:http://www.amazon.com/Cattle-Drive-Big-Jim-Williams-ebook/dp/B00KD3OMW6/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1434033752&sr=8-1&keywords=big+jim+williams+cattle+drive
Eleven men were dead:
Three had died to avenge a friend's death; another robbed and murdered; two because they were cowards; the others, because it was kill or be killed.
Buck Longworth had killed to protect him and his friends, and to save a cattle ranch and its men from extinction.
It hadn't all been within the law. Buck had been lied to by the very man he’d sworn to protect. And dammit, it hurt!
The big question...was it worth it?
* * *
This is a story of the old west, when cowboys lived in bunkhouses, branded cattle, mended fences, sweated long days in the hot sun, or froze in stiff saddles in the depth of winter. They slept in the open, felt their lungs clog with dust as they herded cattle on long trail drives, their bodies bone-weary riding tired horses. Their pay nothing to brag about.
The west was returning to life after the grinding Civil War between the States. Life wasn't easy, east or west of the Mississippi. Out West, it was even tougher. The roads were mostly old Indian trails, ill-marked washes or animal paths, and the streams, torrents in winter, and a mixture of rocks, dry sand, and teeth-rattling roughness in summer. The towns were small, grimy, laced with too many saloons, not enough women, little patience, too far to ride from one to the other, and not much reason to get there in the first place.
Riding a horse through any frontier settlement kicked up dust, and interrupted millions of flies dining on horse and cattle droppings that littered every cow town's rutted streets.
An endless cloud of summer dust probed cracks around doors and windows and settled its gritty blanket in homes and stores, or slowly covered the hair and clothes of the town's inhabitants. It slipped between weathered boards only to be shaken later from a soiled quilt hiding a lumpy cornhusk mattress that passed for a sagging rope bed.
The dust and flies were what people hated. And when a hot wind blew, that made it worse. The grit clogged the air as wranglers on long cattle drives pulled their sweat-stained bandanas over their sun-charred faces.
The townspeople coughed and pressed handkerchiefs against their mouths and nostrils, turned their backs to the gusts, clutched themselves, their bent bodies foreshadowing the old men and women they would soon become. But walking tucked-over never really helped much.
The wind could last for days. It could tear the heart out of a man, the life and soul from a woman. Some couldn't take it, especially the women: the wind, the dust, the loneliness and isolation that dominated their lives, death that frequently claimed their children. The faces of many turned leathery, seared from the heat or crinkled from the cold. Some died. And some just let their minds and souls leave their bodies. Some accepted the inevitable, and became empty, and dry of mind and body.
The hot, burning sun didn't help. There was disease, sickness, the smells, the lack of good water and food, the threat of Indians, and tumbleweeds piled against the sod or clapboard houses as the wind created tiny tornadoes of dust—-dust-devils they called them—-spinning, ever spinning.
But the West had strong men, and Buck Longworth was such a man. He’d ridden under the sun on many cattle drives with the best of men.
"The feel of a horse under you after twelve hours in the saddle ain’t nothing to brag about," he said. "It’s about as joyful as riding a spool of barbed wire."
His crusty words fell on the ignoring ears of a herd of slow-moving longhorns he was helping guide to a distant railhead.
As an outrider, Buck rode as far from the herd as possible. But he couldn’t avoid the gritty cloud that constantly followed the cattle. He bent his lean body forward, shook out his bandana and retied it across his mouth, trying to keep the choking dust out of his lungs. He coughed, lifted the bandana, and tried to spit. The heat evaporated his spittle before it hit the ground.
"A man wasn't meant to spit dry.” The swaying cattle ignored Buck’s mutterings. He reached for his canteen, and then remembered he’d emptied it minutes before. No refills until the noon meal when Cookie opened the water barrels strapped to the side of his chuck wagon.
Buck and the other Double TT men had faced long cattle drives before, but not like this one: miles of heat, cactus, sand, and sage. Long days in the saddle, little sleep, and Cookie’s tasteless food. Buck was tired of herding cattle on the trail, or mothering them on the ranch. He was tired of trail days without shade, and restless nights trying to sleep in a bug—infested bedroll on rocky ground. He was sick of the flies and fleas. Fed up with the dirt, the cattle bawling, the smells, Cookie’s watery beans, stringy meat and hard dried biscuits dumped on greasy tin plates. He was tired of squatting, eating under a bush, or shade of the chuck wagon.
“Ain't no way to live.” He rubbed his stiff back. “Gotta find something easier. Getting too old." Buck thought he might quit after the cattle drive.
At forty, he walked slower, and limped when tired. “Time seems to be speeding up while I'm slowing down,” he told himself. Other than a brief stint as a lawman before joining the Double TT-that’s when he got shot in his right leg--Buck had pushed cattle since he was fourteen. A horse stomping two winters ago busted his left leg, and cracked some ribs. It was months before he returned to work. It had been hard to keep up with the other Double TT cowhands. They'd helped all they could. Gave him the easy jobs, but that didn’t last.
All he’d heard from Captain Alexander McSween after the accident was: "Buck, when you gonna be ready to ride? Can’t have you doing nothing. Hate rushing you, but we’re short-handed. I need you, boy.”
McSween, who owned the Double TT, shook his bald head, added something Buck couldn’t hear, and wandered off while wiping his thick wire-rimmed glasses with his shirttail.
Buck helped Cookie for a while until the crotchety old cook preferred doing everything himself. About the only thing he’d let him do was wash dishes, peel spuds, look for firewood, and kill snakes. Cookie hated snakes.
“The only thing worse than snakes are politicians,” he said. “But then most politicians are snakes.”
Buck’s best friend, Rafferty O’Rourke, did what he could to help. But if it hadn't been for Simon Case, the Double TT’s old foreman, McSween would have fired Buck after he broke his leg.
When tired, Buck’s voice became raspy. He coughed often to clear it. He expected to limp today when they stopped for their mid-day meal. But he'd be happy if he could even stand on his wobbly legs after stiff hours riding.
He coughed dry again and shook his head.
Although Buck was riding far to the left in the swing position, a hundred yards behind the point rider, he remained under a blanket of dust.
Buck’s horse stumbled as its left foreleg found a soft spot in the sand. "Steady Banjo.” Buck shifted his weight in the sticky saddle. Banjo regained his footing and continued his slow, steady pace, anxious, too, for the noon rest and a bucket of water.
Moving three thousand cattle wasn’t easy for the men of the Double TT. At first the longhorns were skittish, and would jump at anything or be off and running in a flash. But now, tired, they had quieted down.
The herd moved beneath a constant brown cloud that drifted for miles. They moved as one, with a steady deliberate pace, like a long rolling sea of bawling and moaning flesh, eyes and nostrils caked with dust, heads low on bodies beginning to show what days without good grass and water will do on the trail. The herd had but one mind, one soul, one purpose-water, grass and rest.
Jude Aaron Blackstone has a new name, a new face, and a new life. Now a pastor at Blue Sky Baptist Church in Montana, Jude can leave in the past his tumultuous years as a special agent who brought the wealthy and powerful to justice when they mixed devil worship with criminal activity. But the devil and his disciples have a way of popping up where they are least expected and suddenly Jude is caught up in a bizarre series of murders that leave no clues and which are difficult to explain or investigate.The targets are Christian ministers in the community, the body count is rising, and Jude is forced to return to his old skills and way of life in order to catch a killer from hell who has slated Jude as the next victim.
Visit Murray Pura’s website: http://www.murraypura.com/
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THE DEVIL TO PAY
An American military base
Somewhere in Germany
There were no windows in the room and no doors.
The two men had entered using an elevator shaped like a ball that came up through the floor and disappeared back the way it came.
Staff called it Get Smart.
The men faced each other on either side of a white table.
The walls were white, the chairs were white, the overhead lighting was white.
The older man had his reading glasses on, wore a light gray suit that was the same color as his hair and skin, and was scanning documents that appeared one after the other on a laptop that faced him.
The younger man had dark brown hair and dark brown eyes, was about six three, slender and muscular, and wore white overalls. He kept his eyes on the older man, said nothing, and waited.
Finally the older man sat back in his padded white armchair and stared at the younger man.
“Ten years of exemplary service,” the older man finally said.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Chasing the devil and his minions all over God’s green earth.” The older man removed his reading glasses. His eyes were as gray as his suit and hair. “Do you believe in all that hocus pocus?”
“It doesn’t matter if I do or not, sir. The devil worshippers stake their lives on it.”
“Hm. And presumably their eternal souls.” The older man steepled his fingers under his chin. “They’d certainly like to send Dirk Austen to hell if they could get their hands on him.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“You’ve killed or incarcerated cult leaders in France and Switzerland and the UK and everywhere else. This despite the fact these men and women were protected by powerful politicians in Berlin and Paris and London. And Washington and the UN.”
“Not to mention the Vatican and Jerusalem, sir.”
“Not to mention.” The older man kept his eyes fixed on the younger man. “All under the guise of a naval chaplain who enjoyed the privilege of serving our Navy Seal teams. And as a special agent with the State Department and the Diplomatic Security Service who went by the code name Preacher Man and worked out of our embassies all over the world. Considering the sort of demons you fought in the field, never mind in the State Department and the Navy Chaplaincy Corps, it’s a wonder you’re still intact, body and soul.”
“Angels on my shoulder, sir.”
“I thought there were only fallen ones in the corridors of power.”
“You’ll find both kinds there, sir. If you could speak to any of the Satanists who are behind bars I believe they’d tell you they found an encounter with pure light a far more frightening experience than any of their encounters with total darkness and depravity.”
“I have spoken with them.” The older man’s gray eyes narrowed. “They hate you with a hatred I have never seen before, not even in the eyes of the most fanatical religious zealot or cold-blooded terrorist.”
“I try to keep my emotions out of it.”
“I suppose that’s why you were so successful in shutting down their Black Masses and Black Sabbaths and all their attempts at global domination.”
“That and prayer.”
“Prayer? So you do believe in the hocus pocus?”
“I believe in God.”
“Well, then God must have believed in you and your cause because here you are sitting in The White Room with me today.” The older man unsteepled his fingers. “Once you leave this room, Special Agent Dirk Austen will cease to exist.”
“I know, sir.”
“The threat level against you is too high and the danger of you being caught and interrogated too great. Have you met with the surgeons?”
“Have you come to an agreement on what you would like to look like?”
The older man smiled. “I wish it were me going under the knife. I could come out looking twenty years younger. Have all the beautiful female federal agents my heart desired.”
“I’ve sworn an oath under the Espionage Act to remain single, sir, and unattached emotionally and sexually. It would be high treason to break that oath.”
“Yes. And all that nasty celibacy makes it sound as if you were some sort of warrior monk fighting those devil worshippers all those years.”
“I suppose I was.”
The older man stood up, put his hands in the pockets of his suit pants, and began to pace the small room, eyes on the walls and floor. “Once you have recovered from the plastic surgery, once the swelling has gone down, there will be an extensive series of photo ops. We will create a short but honorable career in the United States Navy Chaplain Corps for you. Abruptly terminated by your refusal to stop using the name of Jesus Christ and God at military funerals and military worship services. That sounds like something you might have done anyways so it shouldn’t be too hard for you to play along.”
He waited for Austen to respond, but the young man remained silent.
The older man continued to pace. “You will have a new life and a new past. The procedure will be similar to the Witness Protection Program. You will have no further contact with anyone you knew in the Foreign Service, the special ops groups, or the Navy Chaplain Corps. Not that it matters much. Even your eyes will be altered. No one will recognize you. Except me. And you will never hear from me. When my replacement takes over I will brief him in as skeletal a fashion as possible.”
“Why brief him at all, sir?” asked Austen.
“Because there is the chance, the slight chance, a need may arise that is so severe we require your skill set again, your skill set and your faith. In that case you will be tapped to return to active duty as a covert agent. But I hope that won’t be necessary. It’s my belief all this mumbo jumbo Satan worship and Illuminati nonsense has had its day and the need for a vampire hunter like yourself, if you’ll pardon the comparison, is at an end.”
“Where am I going with my new identity, sir?”
“Montana. You will candidate for the position of lead pastor of a Baptist church with about three hundred souls and you will get it. With the Rocky Mountains over your shoulder you will spend the rest of your days preaching sermons, visiting the sick in the hospital, marrying and burying, and providing pastoral care and counseling to your flock. It will not compare with tracking down devilish men in dark suits and devilish women in black dresses who have bodyguards that look like the angel of death.”
“If I can go fishing and hunting and horseback riding it will be a welcome change, sir.”
“Hm.” The older man stopped pacing and gazed at Austen. “I pray you’ll never need it, but you’ll be provided with a satellite phone no bigger than the palm of your hand that will only activate in response to your voice, your sweat, your fingerprints, your body heat, and pulse, and eyes. It will only work with your living tissue. Should a call come through on that phone it will be heavily encrypted. Should you need to make a call on that phone it will be heavily encrypted. Encryption codes will change hourly. That doesn’t concern you. But if the phone is ever used you will be in direct contact with my self at State, with the President of the United States, and with one other person.”
“Who is that?”
“I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Does the President get briefed on my continued existence under a different identity?”
“Yes, he does. By me. Now that he’s won his second election I will be having a sit down with him in the new year. There will be other matters to discuss as well.” The older man was standing by Austen’s chair. “If anyone else tries to use the phone it will go dead. And I’ll know. Keep it in a safe place. Check it every day.”
“What about batteries?”
“It has a power source that lasts over a hundred years. Do you intend to hang around any longer than that?”
Austen smiled for the first time. “My code name was never Methuselah.”
“No.” The older man suddenly thrust out his hand. “It was a pleasure to serve with you, Special Agent Austen. Godspeed.”
Austen gripped the hand. “Thank you, sir. All the best back at State with your own particular brand of demons.”
“I could use your holy water and crucifix when I fly back there after your surgery.”
The older man crossed back to his side of the table. He pressed something under the tabletop. Within moments the round bulletproof elevator with its white steel frame emerged from the floor in a corner of the room. Two guards in white tactical uniforms and helmets and assault rifles stepped out and waited. Austen smiled for a second time because the two soldiers were noticeably black in the all white environment.
Austen walked over to the elevator. “Sergeant Smith. Sergeant Jones.”
He stepped into the elevator and they joined him.
“Are you going to miss seeing my face around here, Sergeant Smith?”
“How about you, Sergeant Jones?”
The sergeant cracked a smile. “It will be a refreshing change of scenery, sir.”
“Thank you, thank you very much.”
“You’re welcome, sir.”
Austen had one last look at the older man in the gray suit before the elevator sank below the surface of the floor.
“I do believe,” he said.
Anne Baxter Campbell is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves her Lord, her family, and writing. She and her husband, one very small dog, and one overweight cat live in north central California .
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Anne Baxter Campbell is a writer with a deep love of God, family, and friends. She also has an overwhelming fascination with the Bible and biblical history. Add to that a basic romantic bent, and there you go.
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Anne Baxter Campbell
In the thirteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, in the month of Marcius
Julius Saturnius stood in the mid-morning heat, droplets of sweat trickling from the kinks of his hair onto his forehead and down the back of his neck, watching and waiting.. He’d been stationed in Jericho for a year. In that time, a young woman had stopped some young boys from tormenting a dog, comforted a little girl who had fallen, and given a loaf of bread to a beggar, but none of that is what had captured his attention. Her wide expressive eyes and the supple grace with which she moved had drawn him to watch for her daily.
Strange, but she reminded him a little of his mother, who had also been a rescuer. Their spacious dwelling in Rome had always been filled with orphans and pups.
The young woman had taken to walking to this spring with her friends almost every morning. She never ventured here alone any more to this place where the residents got their drinking water. An incident had occurred here with a soldier named Brutus. To avoid what he’d saved her from, the women were smart to come in groups. Still he found reason to be in this vicinity most days, wishing she might set aside her fear and come alone so that he might speak to her.
As if wishful thinking had made her appear, Julius straightened as the girl and her companions made their way toward the spring.
Julius watched the young woman walking toward the well. He wondered if she were married and whether she would smile on him even if she were not. He heaved a sigh. She was a Jew; he was a Roman, and Jews hated Romans. With good cause, sometimes. Brutus spent a month cleaning latrines for what he had tried to do to this beautiful one. Did she know he had pulled Brutus off her?
All his supplications and sacrifices to Venus, the goddess of love, had gone unanswered. He chuckled to himself. He would ask Mars, but he didn’t want to go to war with the beautiful young woman. He let out his breath. Even Venus could never match this Jewess’ beauty and grace.
As though she heard his thoughts, she glanced up and met his gaze. She lowered long dark lashes over golden brown eyes, blushing and frowning.
Heat rose from his throat to his face.
She looked angry, and it wasn’t hard to understand why. He’d been staring like one of his mother’s hungry pups when she took out scraps from the table.
Why did he have to serve in Jericho and be tormented by this woman-child? He almost wished he could be transferred somewhere else.
But then he wouldn’t see her again, never watch that delicious female walk, never hear that bubbling laugh, never see those red, ripe lips smile as she walked with her friends.
No, that would be worse.
Maybe tomorrow there would be a chance to speak to her, though about what, he didn’t know. He wanted to tell her…hmm…just what, exactly? He couldn’t tell her what he thought: that he would like to make good use of those inviting lips.
And how could he tell her anything with forty other women always around her?
He prayed to his gods, but he doubted any of them approved of her. The Jews claimed his gods didn’t exist. The Jewish God—invisible, so they said. How could they talk to a God they couldn’t see? Did this God hear their thoughts?
Hmm. Would He hear a plea from Julius? God of the Jews, if You exist, would You show me a way to meet her?
Miriam’s thoughts spun like a desert whirlwind. What was wrong with her? Just because this Roman was handsome, muscular, and broad-shouldered didn’t mean she needed to act like such a fool whenever she saw him watching her.
Ah, those eyes. Such a startling blue. Here he stood almost every day, waiting by the Spring of Elisha, watching her with those dark, piercing blue eyes. She willed herself to ignore his admiring looks, yet her mutinous gaze strayed time after time to this soldier who had saved her. At least she thought he was the one. There were just two centurions in Jericho, and she caught only a glimpse of his back as he marched the evil one away. She hoped he didn’t recognize her as the one dragged into the old house of Barnabab, long deserted and crumbling from disuse. No one had mentioned the attack to her parents or her friends. If anyone had seen. Nor would she tell her parents.
Be still, thumping heart, he might hear.
Or worse, one of her friends could hear and know why her heartbeat raced faster the closer they drew, realize the red in her cheeks was not from the exertion or heat, and recognize that her thoughts were drawn to a Gentile who worshipped at the shrines of false gods. She glanced up at him but pulled her gaze back before her friends could catch her.
The wind gusted, and Miriam scowled as she reached to tuck a strand of windblown hair under the blue wool scarf.
She cast a sidelong glance at the others and then raised her eyes skyward. “Adonai, please help me control these rebel thoughts.”
“Miriam, you’re doing it again.” Her friend Mary giggled as she lifted the full jar of water to the top of her head. “You’re staring into the heavens and whispering.”
“Probably praying for a husband.” Hannah’s grin took the edge from her teasing.
“Maybe praying she won’t have to marry.” Mary’s hand strayed to a dark bruise on her cheek.
“Has your father found one good enough for you yet, Miriam?” Tamar’s eyes narrowed, and her lips turned upward in a scornful smirk.
Miriam shook her head, blushing again.
Her father had refused seven offers of marriage for her. Not strong enough, not wise enough, too old, too young. She realized her friends, and maybe the men too, knew her father found them unsuitable because she didn’t want to marry any of them.
She wished her parents had stayed in Bethsaida instead of moving here to Jericho. In Bethsaida, she hadn’t been the only girl with light hair. Here, unless she covered every strand, people stared at her. The men especially, but the women, too. Sometimes she wondered if the men liked her only because of her hair.
Still, how could she disappoint her abba by telling him she had eyes for a beardless Roman centurion rather than one of the Jewish men Abba wanted? It would be better to forget the Gentile. Think instead about the smell of blooming jasmine on the soft breeze, the beauty of the wildflowers on the green hillside, the feel of the baby’s kicks in Hannah’s belly. Anything but dwelling on the sparks that flew whenever her glance met the Roman’s.
With a start she noticed her friends had left her behind. She knelt and filled the jar from the spring and rose. She turned to hasten after the others but stepped on the edge of her long outer tunic. The water spilled as she twisted to put her body between the ground and the jar. The Roman soldier jumped forward and lifted her to her feet. He continued to hold her arms, but one hand strayed upward toward her shoulder. “Are you all right?”
She froze, staring at his hand. He loosed his grip as though her arms were hot. She opened her mouth to speak, but her tongue felt like a great wad of cloth in a dry cistern. He must think her an idiot.
“Thank you, s-sir.” She backed away a step and dropped her gaze to her wet tunic. Rational thought failed to move her lips, and she fought for something to say. “Uh…how is it you speak Aramaic?”
“I, um, I just thought it might be wise to learn the language of your people because I’m assigned here for a long while.” He cleared his throat. “What are you called? I’m Julius, son of Legate Gaius Saturnius.”
She hesitated. She shouldn’t tell this Gentile her name, should she? But the scriptures said she shouldn’t be discourteous to a stranger. “I’m Miriam, daughter of Micah the carpenter.” She pulled the soft blue wool scarf closer around her face. “I must go…the others....” She turned to look after her friends and saw a scowling Hannah alone waited for her.
“Of course. I’m sorry to have kept you.” Julius dipped the jar into the pool and handed it to her. “Here.”
His deep voice shook her bones, and her heart skipped several beats when his fingers brushed hers. She hurried away, her face hot, praying she wouldn’t trip again.
Miriam caught up with Hannah, and together they walked on.
Hannah’s face rippled with a comical mixture of emotions: eyebrows up, then together; lips open, then tight. She leaned toward Miriam. “What will your parents think? You know how the Roman soldiers are around women. You should be more careful. Remember, they are Gentiles. Heathens.” Hannah pulled away. Her scowl had vanished, replaced by wide-eyed curiosity. “What did he say?”
“Hannah, Hannah.” Miriam forced a laugh. “I’ll be so glad when you give birth to your little one. Maybe then you will cease mothering me. He only helped me draw the water after I fell. He didn’t act like other soldiers. He spoke to me in Aramaic. Have you ever heard of any other soldiers speaking our language?”
“No, but he doesn’t fool me, and neither do you. Your face could never keep a secret. I often see him watching you, and I’ve caught you looking at him, too, several times. His gaze never leaves you. There, see? You blushed again.”
“It’s the heat. I am not blushing.”
“Oh, Miriam, don’t give your heart to a Roman. Your father is too lenient with you, but he would never approve a Gentile who worships those awful gods of Rome. And speaking of Rome, your father would never consent to marriage to anyone who might drag you to the far end of the world.”
“You make too many assumptions, Hannah. The soldier only talked to me about his lessons in Aramaic. Imagine my surprise when he didn’t mention marriage.”
“Speaking of marriage, Isaiah told me he saw James ben Zebedee at the river selling fish again. What excuse can your father find against him? He works hard, he honors his parents, he’s pious and handsome, and he’s the oldest son of a man who established one of the most prosperous fishing businesses in Judea. Add to that his obvious affection for you. He haunts your house every time he is in Jericho waiting for you to see him. Wait much longer, and you’ll be too old for marriage to James. Or anyone.”
“But Hannah, you know James’ temper, and his voice is so loud. I heard several dead people stuck their heads out of their tombs to shush him, chiding him for interrupting their sleep. And he always smells of fish.” Miriam pinched her nose.
“Better smelly James than a stinking Roman,” Hannah said, her lips a thin line, her free hand on her hip. They had arrived at her house, and she moved the hand on her hip to support her stomach. A grimace crossed her face. “I need to go inside and sit a while before I prepare my starving husband’s meal. This little one feels like a full-grown camel. Want to come in? Isaiah won’t return for an hour or longer.”
Miriam shook her head. “I need to go home. Tomorrow, perhaps I’ll get your water for you.” She waved before Hannah entered the house.
Miriam tried to hold her cheerful smile, but she could feel her heart sinking. Hannah was right. She was sixteen. Each year it would be harder for her father to find any willing man to parade before her. Hannah, just a year older than she, wed at fifteen. Mary, her age, had been married three years. Tamar espoused at fourteen. All her close friends were married.
Despite his prevailing odor, James was not as bad a choice as some. Although he tended to be abrupt with others, he treated her with kindness. His voice softened when he spoke to her. This time she should tell her father yes when he asked her about James. Her heart weighed heavy at the thought, and she tasted bitterness on her tongue.
“Why will my heart not heed reason? Why can I not be logical?” she whispered to the One God. “Jehovah Rohi, shepherd me, please. I cannot change my way, no matter how hard I try. My emotions won’t listen to me. You have the power to move my heart from foolishness to wisdom. Help me. Help me, please.”
In fact, Archeologist Kevin Elliot and his Deputy, Jill Gates have unearthed twenty copper scrolls etched with the results of Pontius Pilate’s year long criminal investigation into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They manage to open one scroll far enough to take a series of digital photographs of the writings and email them to a Professor of Ancient Latin for translation. Unaware of the scrolls content, Kevin and Jill are unprepared when they’re caught between an ancient conspiracy of global power that’s determined to destroy the scrolls along with everyone connected to them, and a small, fledgling volunteer group, the only force on earth that stands between Kevin, Jill and certain death.
"Lewis has written a nail-biting thriller that jumps into action on page 1 and doesn't stop until you reach the back cover. Don't open this book unless you're sitting in a comfortable chair with good reading light, because you won't want to move." - Thom Lemmons, Christy award winning author of Jabez: A Novel, and Blameless.
“Pontius Pilate’s diaries . . . would rock the world if discovered today . . . Lewis’s characters are muscular, violent, dedicated . . . and faithful . . . Good and evil remain at war . . . while an archaeologist possessing Pilate’s scrolls is hunted down - Denny Bonavita, Editor and Publisher, Courier-Express / Tri – County Sunday (McLean Publishing Co. - Pennsylvania).
“Joe Lewis and The Diaries of Pontius Pilate tantalize . . . as did “Raiders of The Lost Ark”. . . The archaeologists who discovered the Diaries travel through a gauntlet . . . to bring those records to the public. Don’t wait: . . . follow them in their quest!” – Major Anthony F. Milavic, U.S.M.C. (Retired) and founder of MILINET.
After living and studying abroad, first in the Middle East and then Southeast Asia, Lewis returned home to practice law. He’s a columnist in the New Bethlehem Leader-Vindicator and currently lives, writes, and practices law in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Visit Joseph Max Lewis at his:
Amazon Author Page:http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Max-Lewis/e/B008ZHHUBW/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
Joy Ross Davis - "Mother,Can You Hear Me?"
My mother suffered from dementia, and along with that, acute hearing loss.
As her full time caregiver, I received a great deal of help in the form of the Home Health Care workers who visited twice a week. We were scheduled to meet with a new member of the health care team who would do a routine evaluation, asking questions to determine my mom's overall wellness.
I knew from experience that I needed to be with her during the interview. Dementia and hearing loss do not lend themselves easily to answering questions.
During my time as caregiver, I needed some sort of release from the indescribable demands, demands that never seemed to stop.
There was no sleeping through the night. There was no turning over the reins to someone else.
At the time, I couldn’t identify with what he’d said. The minute to minute responsibilities overwhelmed me. My only relief was laughter and to write.
So I present to you "Mother, Can You Hear Me?"...
Contact her on Twitter @joyrossdavis or at Helping Hands Press @helpinghandspres
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June 29, 2009
Nursing homes don’t exist anymore. Now, they’re gently called “skilled nursing facilities.” But women like my mother, feisty eighty year olds, aren’t swayed by a new name. For them, nothing can offset the terrible stigma of the old one. A nursing home means only one thing: living death. How do we tell her?
It started with a fall in her bathroom then escalated to major surgery and a seven-week hospital stay. The shattered shoulder mended, but for inexplicable—and horribly unexpected—reasons, my mother has not walked since the surgery. She is unable to perform the simplest everyday tasks. Her doctors insisted that we find a suitable facility.
We turned to her discharge planner for help and learned that Medicare would pay for twenty days in a skilled nursing facility. Once we decided on the place, the case worker would take over. She’d arrange for an ambulance for transport and even talk to the doctor about prescribing a light sedative. What a relief!
We chose Plantation Manor, a family-owned facility on the Old Tuscaloosa Highway with lovely landscaping and rooms that smell like fresh flowers. The day before her scheduled arrival, we took a few personal items to her room and, with owner Gary’s help, installed her newly purchased, cable-ready TV.
Still, my brother and I feared our mother’s reaction to the news that she wouldn’t be coming home. Her fiery temper and colourful vocabulary are legendary. To a male nurse, she hissed, “Get away from me. Your breath stinks. Smells like you’ve been eating...” He didn’t stay around to hear the rest. And to a nurse’s assistant, “That’s the ugliest haircut I’ve ever seen on a living human being.” The young woman left in tears.
With her number of insured days in the hospital exhausted, I camouflaged the truth. “Mother, can you hear me?” She refused to wear her hearing aid. “You’re leaving the hospital and going to a rehab facility where you can get stronger.” She did nothing except stare at the ceiling.
On discharge day, we waited for the critical paperwork. At four o’clock, we learned that we’d have to transport Mother ourselves. No ambulance. No light sedative. No help from the case worker, either. In desperation, we called Gavin at