Shannon here: Inspirational author, Linda Wood Rondeau shares excerpts from two of her Christmas novels and winner’s choice of a print of copy It Really Is a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Prayer or an e-book copy of Joy Comes to Dinsmore Street. Comment on any post dated Dec 19 – 23 to enter the drawing. Deadline: Dec 28th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Linda:
Excerpt – Joy Comes to Dinsmore Street:
Ma announced it like the Queen of England would be knocking on our door.
“Joy. My cousin.”
Ma definitely had my attention. I glanced toward the bookcase, Joy’s shrine.
“I can’t wait to see her.”
Through a gold-plated frame, a sullen, brown-eyed fifteen-year-old girl stood by a Christmas tree decorated with popcorn and construction paper rings. Her eyes, as big as quarters, dared me to know her story.
Ma slid the stool to the refrigerator and took down a plastic container, the place she kept important documents like birth certificates, the deed, insurance forms and apparently letters from long-lost cousins. She balanced her treasure against her chest as she rummaged through the contents.
“Ma, when are you going to start using that fireproof box I bought you?”
“I’m too old to learn new ways of doing things, Colin. Ah, here it is.” She hopped off the stool, rivaling a track star’s long jump, complete with a kick thrust.
“Fifty-four is not too old. Is it, Ginny?” I glanced at my wife who sat on the other side of the table.
“Leave Ginny out of this.” Ma waved the letter at me like a winning lottery ticket. “Joy says that Christmas is a good time to put the past in the past. So she’ll be here early evening. I’m so excited I hope I don’t burn dinner tonight.”
“What are we having?”
Since moving in with Ma, the O’Donnells had a special Christmas Eve dinner, the menu selected by Colin Roy. Tonight’s lineup would be turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, cranberry gelatin with whipped cream on top—the real kind that Grandma makes not the store-bought kind—and Christmas cookies for dessert. Ma and Ginny would be cooking up a storm so I’d planned on spending my usual Christmas Eve afternoon at the Red Rooster Grill, until I heard the news that Cousin Joy decided to pay a visit after all these years.
Instinct told me nothing would be usual again.
“Will Cousin Joy stay over for Christmas?”
“Don’t know if she’ll stay tonight. Says she has a room booked in town at Isabel’s bed and breakfast. I should make her a cake at least. Today’s her birthday.”
“How long since you saw her last?”
“Nearly forty years. Not a word from her since she ran off. The worst day of my life.”
How could any day have been worse than the one where a husband disappears?
“How did she find you? Beaver Creek’s a long way from Crater Falls.”
“Don’t know. She didn’t say.”
“Can I see the letter?”
She handed it to me with a sideways grin and then jabbed the envelope. “See? It’s addressed to me …Mrs. Gertrude O’Donnell.”
“How did she know your married name?”
Ma yanked the letter from my hand before I could even get it out of the envelope. She tucked it into the plastic container then reversed her ceremonial steps to return it to the top of the refrigerator. “Return address is Nashville. Wonder how she ended up there?”
Ma jumped down, a little less gingerly this time. “I wished she’d put in a recent picture. When she knocks on the door, I’ll be hard put to recognize her.” Ma shrugged her shoulders. “No sense worrying about mysteries that’ll be solved by end of day. I got a dinner to fix.”
Ma glanced at Ginny then picked up a pile of breakfast dishes off the table. Ginny took her cue and loaded the dishwasher with the breakfast dishes while Ma rummaged through the cupboards, lining the counter with dinner preparations.
Ma’s questions about Joy would be put to rest, while the answers I needed concerning my father continued to dangle like a rabbit’s carrot. Moving me ever forward with no satisfaction.
“What’d you get Colin Roy for Christmas?” Ma asked, as she prepared the stuffing.
“I got him his first two-wheeler. Sally Jo helped me pick it out.”
I veered my gaze at Ginny. Sally Jo owned the Red Rooster Grille. When we came to Beaver Creek, Ginny accused me of spending too much time there. A spark of that green-eyed monster would prove she still cared even if only a little. She stacked the last dish, turned and scowled. Like a blown kiss, I grabbed what notice she gave–glares better than indifference.
Ma and Ginny had set about cooking and cleaning, happy to ignore me. I hated doing housework on my day off, as graceful in the kitchen as a four hundred pound acrobat. On any other day when frigid temps inside matched those outside, I’d take off for a buzz and listen to Sally Jo’s slant on the meaning of life.
Not today. Maybe I needed to put my past in the past, as Joy said in her letter. To do that, Ma needed to come clean. With everything. She’d hidden the truth about my father behind her grief long enough. Joy’s unexplained visit might very well be the spark to get Ma talking. I’d long believed the two disappearances had to be connected, like links at opposite ends of a chain.
I picked up her highness’s photograph. “Strange nobody ever heard from Joy until now.”
Ma grabbed the frame from my grasp and replaced it on its bookcase altar then pushed me toward the table like an errant child.
“No you don’t, Ma. It’s time you told me about Joy. And my father.”
Tears welled in my mother’s eyes. She pushed gobs of stuffing into the bird’s backside. She lathered it with butter, sewed the fleshy flab, wrapped the bird in aluminum foil and set it in the oven, letting the door slam shut. “What does one have to do with the other?”
As a boy, I’d run from the house, resentful of a mother who loved sorrow more than her son. A man now, I’d learned that robbing hardware stores did nothing to quell pent up rage. “I think they do, and I think it’s time you told me how.”
Reaching into the old pine cupboard, Ma filled a coffee mug and sat at the table. “Okay. Sit down. You, too, Ginny. Time for the truth. All of it.”
Ginny’s eyes widened.
Hopsey was my pet rabbit. I loved that animal as much as a boy could love anything. I found him one day tangled up in barbed wire. Fear lived in his eyes as life seeped from him. What fear made Ginny’s eyes so big, afraid to tell me why she stopped loving me? She sat next to me for the first time in over a year. I reached for her hand, she pulled it away.
A blast of Artic air came in with a snow covered six-year-old boy. “I’m making an ice fort, Daddy. I think I’ll call it Mount O’Donnell.”
“Good going, Sport,” I said, my heart bursting with pride, Colin Roy the one thing that kept me moored these days. A part of me wanted to disappear, like my father had, like Joy had. I would learn to live without Ginny’s love, as I lived without a mother’s touch. But, I couldn’t fathom a day without my son’s laughter.
“Well, why don’t you go back outside and finish it. I’ll take a look in a bit. Your grandmother and me are about to have a conversation.”
“Okey, Dokey. Have a fun conversation, then.”
I followed his innocent steps until the door closed behind him. No matter what the day brought in revelation, I couldn’t leave him. A father should protect his son’s childhood, not destroy it.
“Go on, Ma.”
She brought Joy’s picture to the table, a memorial atop a phantom casket. “She was the best friend I ever had.”
“That much I know, Ma.”
“Not even your father understood how close we were. More like sisters than cousins. I’ll tell you everything. Just, please, don’t hate me.” Ginny nodded as if giving Ma permission to continue.
In that instant, however unlikely a connection, the reasons for Ginny’s emotional retreat completed the trident sure to pierce me in the telling. Yet—
“Go ahead, Ma.”
Excerpt – A Christmas Prayer:
Alexis Jennings smelled smoke and rushed to the window. “Not another fire!”
Wishing it weren’t so would not change the outcome. Flames shot from the shed.
Alexis sprang into action with the kind of expediency a year of caring for Gib had taught her. She punched in 911, gave the address, and ran outside, the alarm blaring when she opened the door. Nice to know the fancy alarm system she’d installed at a hefty price was working. But how did Gib get outside without tripping it?
At least this time Gib had set the fire outside and not in the house. Alexis grabbed the lawn hose. Useless. Frozen solid. She waited in helplessness
for the fire department while flames danced the length of the walls and on the roof.
She fumed. Where was Gib? Normally he returned to the scene of his trouble-making, laughing while others undid his messes.
Horror replaced anger.
Was he in there? What if he was hurt and couldn’t get out?
Alexis edged closer to the shed. “Gib! Gib! Are you in there?” Like flaming hands, the fire’s heat pushed her backward.
No answer. The siren wails meant the fire department was near. She hurried to the front as the truck pulled up.
“I don’t know where Gib is!” Alexis screamed to the first firefighter she spotted.
While one group unraveled the hoses, another donned masks and axed their way in. Smoke billowed across the yard as flames engulfed the entire structure.
Soon the fire was out, the shed a memory.
Donna Bilow took off her mask as she approached. “Doesn’t appear your brother was in there.”
Alexis sobbed with relief. “This is the first time Gib’s set a fire outside.”
“Can’t say for sure, but this one appears to be an accident.”
Please, Lord. Let it be so. “Gib’s modus operandi is to light a newspaper, set it on the oven, and watch it burn until the smoke detector goes off. Most of the time I can extinguish it before the sprinklers come on. I’m at my wits end, Donna. I don’t know how to keep him and me safe anymore.
When I scold him, he runs off and it takes me hours to find him. It’s as if he’s punishing me for punishing him.”
Donna’s face softened, the creases melting with empathy rather than the usual scowls of condemnation Alexis so often received. “My nephew is
autistic. Thankfully, he doesn’t set fires. My sister hides all the matches as a safety precaution.”
“I don’t keep matches in the house either. Gib steals them from The Quick Stop down the road, along with half a dozen candy bars.”
“Isn’t he forbidden to go there under the terms of his probation?”
“Gib does what Gib wants to do. He doesn’t consider the consequences.” Alexis tasted the acidity in her condemnation. Why hide her frustration? She’d made excuses for Gib long enough.
“We found a metal box in the shed full of candy bars, matches, and cash.”
“Stolen, no doubt.”
“The bills are covered with melted chocolate; otherwise the contents are intact. A miracle the matches didn’t ignite from the heat.”
Alexis shivered. If Gib had been in the shed …
What more could she do to reign Gib in? She’d read every book she could find on caring for autistic children. She’d tried every behavior modification
technique the counselors suggested and those mentioned in her online support groups.
Yet, his rebellion continued.
About Linda: Winner of the 2012 Selah Award for best first novel The Other Side of Darkness/Harbourlight, LINDA WOOD RONDEAU, writes stories of God’s mercies. Walk with her unforgettable characters as they journey paths not unlike our own. After a long career in human services, Linda now resides in Jacksonville, Florida.
Linda’s best-selling Adirondack Romance, It Really IS a Wonderful Life, is published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas and is available wherever books are sold. Her next releases were her devotional book, I Prayed for Patience God Gave Me Children and Days of Vines and Roses
Joy Comes to Dinsmore Street and A Christmas Prayer have been released in time for the Christmas as well as her mini novel, Jolly Angel. Songs in the Valley/ Helping Hands Press. Will be released in late 2013 or early 2014.
About the books:
It Really Is a Wonderful Life: Midville newcomer and Iraq War widow, Dorie Fitzgerald, despises the frigid Adirondack wasteland that has now become her home. After twenty failed job interviews, she questions the wisdom of moving to be near her parents. Desperate to belong, she joins the local Community Theater, in production for It s a Wonderful Life. Jamey Sullivan has put his professional life on hold in order to run the family business and to help his ailing father. He signs on for Midville s production of It s a Wonderful Life, although he hopes to receive a Broadway casting call any day now. When these two meet, they are instantly attracted to one another. However, ambition, demanding children, and a romantic rival threaten to squash their growing love for one another. It Really IS a Wonderful Life is set in the beautiful Adirondack mountains, a perfect backdrop for romantic conflict.
Joy Comes to Dinsmore St.: Most people looked forward to the dawning of the new millennium. For Colin O’Donnell, Christmas 2000 holds no anticipation until he learns Ma expects a visit from Joy, an adored cousin who disappeared on the girl’s sixteenth birthday. Why does she decide to visit Ma after all these years? The day Colin’s father left, Ma clutched Joy’s photograph as if it were a lifeline. Colin suspects the two disappearances are somehow connected although they occurred decades apart. Perhaps Joy’s visit will bring answers to years-old daunting questions. First, however, Colin must wrestle with a current mystery. What did he do to drive his wife from their bed? When all is revealed and the past and present collide, will Colin fight to preserve his marriage or follow his father’s path of abandonment?
A Christmas Prayer: A year after learning of a son’s existence, country music legend, Ethan Jacobs returns to Jasper Falls, a place of bitter memories, to help the his twelve-year-old autistic child, given up for adoption at birth. Orphaned after the death of his adoptive parents, the boy is at risk of institutionalization due to probation violations and alleged inadequate guardianship of his current caregiver, an older, adoptive sister. In view of his son’s delicate emotional state, the court advises Ethan to keep his relationship to Gib secret for now.
Five Star Review Comments:
Joy Comes To Dinsmore Street by Linda Wood Rondeau is a story of secrets, desertion, and self-hate but forgiveness redeems the story.
Keeping secrets and reacting with a hot head. Nothing good can come of that. The past has a way of creeping into the present. These are the lessons the characters in this book have to come to terms with.
A Christmas Prayer is the perfect kind of feel-good read for the holidays. (And also a quick read, so you can use it to de-stress between shopping and baking and wrapping and all the other craziness that goes on this time of year.)
BEAUTFUIL, AS a caregiver to a father who had cancer. I found this book uplifting, faith filled, a story that touches the heart. This book really hit you in your soul. It was written for the heart.
Come back on Christmas Eve for Tanya Eavenson’s Christmas Dessert Recipes!