Tag Archives: Christmas

Book Excerpt: Counselor Dynamite, by Starr Burgess

1 counselor dynamite

Author: Starr Burgess
Illustrator: Victor Guiza
Illustration count: 12
Dimensions: 8×10 /hardcover
Pages: 26
ISBN: 978-1-60131-118-4
Imprint: Big Tents Books
Retail: $16.95
AGE: 8-10
Publish date: July 28, 2012


About the Book

It’s Christmas time and Counselor Dynamite is the newest superhero to hit the scene.

Counselor Dynamite’s mission: To serve and protect children and support staff members in schools everywhere.

It’s the day before Christmas break. Teachers and staff are either running low on patience or are just plain tired. The students as you might have guessed are full of unbridled energy, but one thing is for sure everyone is ready to start Christmas break. Counselor Dynamite notices that something is amiss and quickly jumps into action knowing that if something isn’t done soon, students, teachers and staff will never be the same once chaos is unleashed. Will her helpers and faith be enough? Starr Burgess’s endearing story is brought to life by Victor Guiza’s vivid, colorful, and crisp illustrations.

Counselor Dynamite will capture the laughter and spirit of the holiday season with mischievous behavior and humor so contagious you will want to read it again. Counselors everywhere will be inspired to reinvent their own special quick, happy dance marking the end of each adventurous day.

Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Apple iTunes Store


Twas’ the day before Christmas Break, when all through the school

Not a teacher was happy, they were losing their cool.

The students were rowdy, they were losing their minds

The teachers decided these children have one more time!

Emotions were high, everyone had had enough

If something didn’t change, it was going to get rough.

The counselor was called to check room after room,

To make sure the teachers hadn’t fled the school with a zoom!

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Read-A-Chapter: Police Mystery ‘Heroes & Lovers’ by Wayne Zurl

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the police mystery, Heroes & Lovers, by Wayne Zurl. Enjoy!


  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Iconic Publishing, LLC (September 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0985138890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0985138899

Sam Jenkins might say, “Falling in love is like catching a cold.  It’s infectious and involuntary. Just don’t sneeze on any innocent people.” 

 Getting kidnapped and becoming infatuated with a married policeman never made Knoxville TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s list of things to do before Christmas.  

Helping her friend, Sam Jenkins, the ex-New York detective and now police chief in Prospect, Tennessee, with a fraud investigation sounded exciting and would get her an exclusive story.  

But Sam’s investigation put Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time and her abduction by a mentally disturbed fan, ruined several days of her life.

When Jenkins learns Rachel has gone missing he mobilizes all personnel at Prospect PD and enlists his friends from the FBI to help find her.

During the early stages of the investigation, Sam develops several promising leads, but as they begin to fizzle, his prime suspect drops off the planet and all the resources of the FBI aren’t helping.

After a lucky break and a little old-fashioned pressure on an informant produce an important clue, the chief leads his team deep into the Smoky Mountains to rescue his friend.  But after Rachel is once again safe at home, he finds their problems are far from over.



Chapter One

The last thing I wanted to do just before Christmas was tangle with a creep like Elrod Swaggerty. Unfortunately, a policeman gets little choice of what or who gets dumped onto his lap. Our motto is, “To protect and serve.” Humbug.

At quarter-to-eleven on Monday morning, December 18th, I heard an angry voice in the reception area.
“Now looka here, missy. I wanna see the head man and I want him now. And y’all need ta lock up that no-account, thievin’ sum-bich! Ya hear me?”

Calling Sergeant Bettye Lambert missy sounded like a bad idea. I decided to intervene so I wouldn’t find an injured hillbilly in the lobby of my police station.

Years of experience has taught me the best thing to do in a situation like that would be walk in on the conversation and do nothing until the tide changed.

I stopped ten feet from Bettye’s desk. The complainant, a local specimen, who looked to be somewhere between forty-five and his mid-fifties, wasn’t alone. A woman around thirty stood in the shadow of the older man. She held a four- or five-year-old girl by the hand. None of the three looked like they bought their clothes in Parisian’s, but they seemed clean and healthy, and were probably in need of legal assistance.

I folded my arms across my chest and began my stoic Chief Pontiac impersonation, trying to look just this side of downright mean.

“Sir, we have every intention of takin’ your complaint and helpin’ you the best we can.” Bettye can usually sooth the nastiest characters with only a few words.

The man stood in front of her desk scowling, hands on hips. His salt-and-pepper hair looked like someone trimmed it with a hedge clipper.

I think Bettye sensed my presence. She turned and looked at me, but said nothing and let me do my thing. I thought my act started well. The man stopped talking and the young woman, who had yet to speak, stared at me with anticipation. I tried to look like Grumpy, the seventh dwarf. The suspense was killing me. I wondered what the others thought.

So, I decided to break the silence. “Good morning. I’m Chief Jenkins and I’d be happy to listen to your complaint—if we can do it like civilized gentlemen.” I nearly growled and he blinked first. “Sergeant, would you do the honors?”

Bettye gave a sigh. “Chief, this is Mr. Bunker and his daughter, Lorene. They’ve had a problem with a local auto repair shop. Mr. Bunker thinks it may be a criminal matter.”

Outside our doors, in the lobby of the Prospect municipal building, the colored lights on a tall Christmas tree twinkled in no particular order. The recessed ceiling lamps had been dimmed a little and the marble halls looked cozy.

“Okay, I’d like to hear about it.” I nodded at the two adults. “Mr. Bunker, Miss Lorene, I’ll try to help if I can. Let’s go into my office and sit down. But first, Lorene, will you introduce me to the young lady here?”

Lorene looked too thin. She wore tight jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Her mousy brown hair hung straight and below her shoulders. She smiled, looked toward who I thought was her daughter, and spoke in a sing-song, Smoky Mountain accent. “This is Tonya. Tonya, say hello to the po-leece-man.”

Tonya lowered her eyes and remained quiet. I got down on one knee, tilted my head, tried to look friendly—something not always easy for me, and extended my hand.

She looked tiny with long dark hair surrounding a doll-like face. Her red dress, white socks, and Little Lulu shoes seemed like clothing from another age.

“Hello, Miss Tonya. My name is Sam. I think your momma and papaw might have a problem. Would you like me to fix it?”

Little Tonya invoked her right to remain silent. I shrugged and smiled, thinking big girls responded favorably to a smile, why not a little kid. She hugged her mother’s thigh, but finally said, “Yes, sir.”

“Okay, I can do that. But first we need to be friends. Can we shake hands?”

She maintained a death grip on her mom’s leg, but extended her right hand toward mine. I took the little paw between my thumb and forefinger and gave a gentle shake.

“Good. Now we’re buddies,” I said.

Tonya gave me ten percent of a full-size smile. A little progress seemed better than none.

Mr. Bunker and Lorene sat in the two arm chairs in front of my desk. I carried a side chair around front and placed it close to Lorene so Tonya could sit with her mom.

“Now, Mr. Bunker,” I said, “I know you’ve already told the sergeant your story, but can I hear it again?”

Bunker clicked his teeth several times before giving me a concise story. “Lorene had took her Taurus to Smoky Mountain Transmissions fer a check-up. The car’d been actin’ funny and I guessed the bands were a-slippin’. She dropped the car off on Monday, got it back on Wednesday afternoon.”

He paused to shake his head in apparent disgust.

“Had ta give seven-hunnert-fifty dollar. Man said he had ta re-build the transmission.” He stopped again and looked at me.

“Uh-huh,” I said. “I’m guessing there’s something else?”

“Yes, sir, there is. My son, Leroy, he looked at the car. Leroy had took him some classes on auto re-pair in hi-skoo. Leroy says ain’t nobody never even touched that transmission a’tall.”

“Does the car drive better now, Lorene?” I asked.

“Yes, sir, it does.”

Tonya looked at me with big brown eyes while she twisted strands of hair around her fingers. I winked. She smiled.

“Mr. Bunker, what’s your first name?” I asked.

Bunker pulled his head back a few inches, looked at me for a long moment. “Alvin.”

“May I call you Alvin, sir?”

Bunker scowled again looking a little distrustful.

“Shore, I don’ care if ya do.”

“Okay, Alvin, let me tell you what I think. I think seven hundred and fifty dollars is a lot of money. Maybe that’s how much it costs to rebuild a transmission. I don’t know.”

Alvin’s scowl deepened the crevices between his eyebrows.

“If this repairman never worked on the car, like your son thinks, but only topped off the fluid and charged Lorene for an expensive job, that would be a crime.”

Alvin’s face brightened a little.

“If it’s okay with you and Lorene, I’d like our mechanic to take a look at the car. He knows a lot more about transmissions than I ever will. You have the car here now?”

“Yes, sir, we do,” he said.

“Okay. You parked out back?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Our garage is in back of the parking lot. Let’s get your car on a lift and have the mechanic take a look.”

We walked half way to the garage in silence before Alvin Bunker spoke. “They’s a bunch o’ Jenkinses here in Blount County, but you shore don’t sound like you’re from Tennessee.”

“I’m from New York.”

“Our church took us on a bus trip to New York City once,” Lorene said.

“Big place, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Lord have mercy, yes,” she said. “And Biz-zy!”

“You with the po-leece up there?” Alvin asked.

“For twenty years. I worked on Long Island, retired, and moved down here.”

“Lord have mercy. Y’all musta seen a lot.”




I stood under Lorene’s ’92 Ford looking up at about sixty square feet of dirty metal undercarriage.

“A repairman charged the girl seven-hundred-and-fifty dollars to rebuild this transmission,” I said. “You see any evidence that the car’s been worked on?”

Earl Biggins, the Prospect city mechanic, looked up at the car. He turned a bright drop-light this way and that. He turned around in a circle and tilted his head to the right and to the left. He hadn’t responded to my question.

I wanted to grab him by the neck, shake him, and say, “Yes or no, Earl?” But I waited. And then waited some more.

A Dodge dealer’s commercial ended and the country radio station began playing The Devil Came Down to Georgia.

“Sam,” Earl said, “this here car’s what, fourteen, fifteen year old?”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

“Looky here. You drop a tranny, they’s a lota handlin’.”

“Uh-huh,” I said.

“Ain’t no way you don’t git dirty. Ain’t no way you don’t mess up all the road dirt that’s done built up over the years. My opinion, Sam, ain’t no one never messed with this tranny. No sir. Leastwise not from down here.”

“Is there any other way to do a rebuild?”

“Course not.”

Charlie Daniels was still singing as I next spoke.

“She says the car runs better now than before she took it in. What do you figure?” I asked.

“My guess is she was way low on fluid. Shoot, a woman probably don’t never check. Man takes a look, tops it off, sees it takes a sizeable lot and test drives it. Car feels okay—end of story. Cost ya what, ten, twelve dollar in transmission fluid—retail?”

“So we’ve got a scam?” I asked.

“That’s what I said, Sam.”

“I want to leave the car here and get someone to take photos of the undercarriage and transmission,” I said. “Then I’m going to see how many times we can catch this bugger cheating other customers. If you need to use the lift, take the car down. But I can have a county crime scene guy here in half an hour or so. Work for you?”

“Shore does, I ain’t goin’ nowheres.”

“Thanks, buddy. I’ll get back to you.”

I walked back into Earl’s office and gave Alvin and Lorene the bad news. She’d been screwed out of seven-hundred-and-fifty bucks.

“You gonna arrest that hairy-faced bastard, Chief?” Alvin asked.

“Not today, Alvin, but soon. Let’s walk back to the PD and I’ll tell you what I’d like to do. But I need to keep your car here for an hour or so and have a police photographer take pictures of the transmission. You probably don’t want to wait around, so can I get you a ride home after we’re finished speaking. If you need a ride back, I can do that, too.”

“I’d ‘preciate the ride home, but no, sir. I kin drive Lorene back here in m’ truck.”

I explained to Alvin and Lorene how I wanted to set up the owner of Smoky Mountain Transmissions with a few more opportunities of scamming customers out of their money.

Alvin wanted to take the more direct approach of arresting him immediately for cheating Lorene and then circumvent the sometimes inefficient legal system by dragging him behind a police car. While Alvin’s method of corporal punishment sounded innovative, he deferred to my expertise with the criminal justice system to handle the situation with a more liberal approach.

Bettye arranged to have a car take Alvin, Lorene, and little Tonya home and promised to call them as soon as the police photographer finished with the Ford.

Thirty minutes later, my favorite county crime scene guy, Jackie Shuman, knocked on the office door.

“Howdy, Chief, y’all got a job fer me?”

“Have I got a job for you? Yes, an easy one. You won’t even get dirty.”

We walked across the parking lot to where Lorene Bunker’s Taurus sat up high on the lift. Earl pointed to various spots on the transmission where accumulated dirt and gunk would be disturbed if actual work had been done.

Jackie and his trusty Nikon snapped away at the lack of anything to see. I felt like Sherlock Holmes explaining the curious case of the dog barking in the night. The curious thing being the dog didn’t bark at all.

After a dozen photos, we returned to my office.

On the way, Jackie said, “Kinda weird, ain’t it? You wantin’ shots of somethin’ that ain’t there.”

“Welcome to the world of schemes to defraud. I should be calling on you for more before-and-after shots on other vehicles. That work for you?”

“It does. You do git inta some strange stuff, don’t ya?”

“I try to make life interesting.”

“This the kinda thing you did when you was a cop up in New York?”

“All the time.”

“Miss it?”

“Not much.”

We walked a few more yards.

“Well,” he said, sounding like he wanted to make friendly conversation, “we got us another Smoky Mountain Christmas coming up.”

“We do. And don’t eat too much. Don’t want your snazzy uniform getting tight.”

“Don’t I know it? Ever since Thanksgivin’, I’ve been eatin’ like a hawg. Tween cookies from my momma and mamaw, and the dinners my wife’s been makin’, I’m gonna weigh a ton by New Years.”

“Wait till you get older. Sometimes I just have to think food to gain weight.”

He smiled and shook his head. “Well, I’ll be back, but if’n y’all don’t need me, I’ll hit the road an’ see if my real boss wants me. See ya, Sam.”

“Take it easy, kid, and thanks.”


“Bettye, my love,” I said, “how about using your gorgeous fingers on that magic computer and find me a name for the owner of Smoky Mountain Transmissions?”

She looked at me over the tops of narrow reading glasses. Her hazel eyes caught the overhead light and sparkled.

“Gorgeous fingers?”

“Sure. I’m trying to woo you into doing a couple of favors so I don’t have to use the computer myself. Pretty suave, huh?”

“Suave? Is that what you call it?”

“Well, what it actually is shouldn’t be said in polite society. When you know who the owner is, run him through this and that and see what else we know about him?”

“I will. Now take yourself back into your own office while I work on this. And Sam, the word you were lookin’ for is bullshit, pardon my French.”

“If I had any feelings, they’d be hurt.”

“Darlin’, it takes more than that to hurt your feelin’s.”

“Why do I always get tied up with smart women?”

She wiggled her fingers to shoo me away.

While Bettye looked for a pedigree on our dishonest mechanic, I needed a plan to catch him in a sting. Nothing earth-shaking or terribly innovative, just recruit a couple of people who he wouldn’t recognize as local cops—people who owned cars not in need of serious transmission repair. I’d get Earl to dummy up a problem, and see if our con man charged for major repairs he never performed.

I pondered over who to charm into being my first operative. I needed someone who looked like they weren’t very savvy about cars. I made a quick phone call.

“Hello,” she answered.

“Hi, sweetie. How’d you like to do me a favor and be part of an exciting police operation?”

“Sammy, I’ve lived with you for almost forty years—I’ve done lots of exciting things.”

“See how lucky you are? I’m going to let you in on the ground floor of the greatest operation ever seen at Prospect PD. Something they can make a TV movie about. I’m thinking about writing the screenplay myself. When a studio buys the idea, I’ll ask Cheryl Ladd to play you. Or would you rather use Lynda Carter? You in or what?”

“Perhaps, love, you should tell me what you want me to do. And am I going to get paid for this?”

“How can you put a price on a genuine po-leece adventure?” I explained the plan to my wife. “Easy, huh?”

“I could be like Charlie’s fourth angel.”

“You’re my only angel, baby. You have anything planned tomorrow morning?”

“I’m all yours, dahling.”

“Good. Plan on being here at 9:30. We’ll have sex in the evidence closet like two real detectives and then you can hit the road.”


“What? You don’t want to hit the road?”

“I’ll see you tonight.” She sighed.

“See ya later, alligator.”

“God, some of the things you say make you sound so old.” She hung up on me.

A minute later, Bettye walked in and sat down. She no longer knocked, but just took liberties. I needed to tighten up the women in my life.

“The owner of the transmission shop is Elrod Swaggerty,” she said.

“No kidding?”

“Could I make that up? Elrod has not led the life of a good citizen. He’s got three arrests for auto theft, two for possession of stolen property, two possessions of marijuana, and one possession of a weapon.”

“And a partridge in a pear tree,” I added. “How many convictions?”

“Nine arrests, five convictions, and another arrest in North Carolina for reckless driving, but there’s no disposition listed for that.”

“Good work. We’ve got a skell in beautiful downtown Prospect. Some day they’ll write a book about you and me—the dashing police chief and his beautiful blonde sidekick.”

“Oh stop it! Does your wife know you say things like that?”

“She knows I’m hopelessly in love with you, but since you’re already married, I behave myself.”

She shook her head and stood up.

“Kate has the patience of a saint.”

“I’ll check the Police Chief’s Manual, but that sounded almost insubordinate.”

“I’ve learned one thing in the last six months, Sam Jenkins.”


“You are impossible.”

“Thanks, reputation is everything.”

“What do you plan on doing’ with Elrod?” she asked.

“Catch him in a sting.”

“Pretty sophisticated for li’l ol’ Prospect.”

“Should be a piece of cake.”

“Why is it when you say, ‘Piece o’ cake,’ like that, I think about loadin’ up the


Reprinted from Heroes & Lovers by Wayne Zurl. © 2012 by Iconic Publishing.

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Interview with Cheryl C. Malandrinos: “I have a basic idea and then I let things happen as they may.”

Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A regular contributor for Writer2Writer, her articles focus on increasing productivity through time management and organization. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.     

Cheryl is a Tour Coordinator for Pump Up Your Book, a book reviewer, and blogger. Little Shepherd is her first children’s book. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two young daughters. She also has a son who is married.

You can visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com or the Little Shepherd blog at http://littleshepherdchildrensbook.blogspot.com/.


About Little Shepherd

Obed is in the hills outside Bethlehem when the angels appear to announce the Savior’s birth. Can he trust that the miracle of the first Christmas will keep his flock safe while he visits the newborn King?

Q: Thank you for this interview, Cheryl. Can you tell us what your latest book, Little Shepherd, is all about?

Thanks for having me here today. Little Shepherd tells the story of the first Christmas through the eyes of a shepherd boy in the fields outside of Bethlehem. Obed is tending his first flock when the angel appears. He wants to join the others to see the newborn King, but he’s afraid something will happen to his sheep if he leaves them alone.

Some wise words from his father help convince him, but Obed is anxious to return to the fields after meeting the Holy Family. What he discovers is that it is a night of miracles.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

There are really only two in Little Shepherd—Obed and his father. Obed is very responsible for his young age of five and is determined not to let anything happen to his sheep. He knows how much his family depends upon them for food and clothing.

His father and the others witness the angel’s appearance. He is the one who suggests they visit the newborn King. His actions that night surprise Obed a bit, but like a good son he obeys his father, despite his anxiety.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

In this instance, Obed is imaginary, but I can see Obed’s father having been the shepherd who said, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us.”

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

Typically, when I’m working on something, I have a basic idea and then I let things happen as they may. My original idea is rarely what the finished manuscript ends up looking like.

With Little Shepherd, I knew I wanted it to be about a young shepherd who visits the Savior on the first Christmas, but the first draft had no conflict. I had to talk it through with a writing friend a bit to discover what Obed’s conflict would be.

Q: Your book is set outside and in Bethlehem. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

God dictated the setting for this one.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

It does because of the need for historical accuracy.

Q: Open the book to page 9. What is happening?

Obed is visiting with the Holy Family. He sees that everything is just as the angel had told them. He hears the wolves howling in the distance but none of the other shepherds, including his father, seem concerned.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Off in the distance, a wolf howled. Obed moved closer to his flock, scanning the hills for any sign of a pack that might race in and steal his sheep. His family depended upon the sheep for food and their wool for clothing. No sheep would be lost under his watch.

He shivered inside his cloak. While the days were getting warmer, the nights still chilled him. He walked over to the large fire blazing inside the pit. He rubbed his hands together and held them up to the fire to warm them.

Above him, the sky twinkled with millions of stars. Obed couldn’t remember a night so clear.

Suddenly, a bright light filled the sky.

Obed trembled. “Father, what is happening?”

His father dropped to the ground, his right hand blocking his eyes from the intense light.

Obed pulled the edges of his cloak closer to his face as he squinted up at the mysterious form hovering overhead. He shivered, but this time it was not because of the cold.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Cheryl. We wish you much success!

Thanks again for having me. I hope your readers will stop by my new blog dedicated to the book, which can be found at http://littleshepherdchildrensbook.blogspot.com/.  There’s a video trailer for Little Shepherd in the sidebar.

Readers can also find me at http://ccmalandrinos.com/, become my friend on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.


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Holiday Memories: Shouldering the Cross at Christmas by Ellen Chaksil

Holiday Memories is a month long series of heartwarming holiday stories from authors all over the world.  We at As the Pages Turn hope you will enjoy and have a happy holiday full of good and happy memories!

Shouldering the Cross at Christmas
by Ellen Chaksil

With the approach of Christmas, I confided a terrible, heartbreaking suspicion to my cousin, Ann. My son David had been staying with me temporarily, and he was planning to once more get an apartment of his own. I had undertaken the chore of helping clear out some of his things. In the process of doing so, I had come across an abundance of pills in one of his bureau drawers. Since it was not the first time I had found them, I really became alarmed, thinking, Could he possibly be addicted to those pills?

“Oh, come on!” Ann interrupted. “I don’t think so. You did say they’re prescription drugs. Maybe that old football injury is kicking up. Then, too, he’s had a few minor accidents since then, so he might need them for pain.”

After a bit more discussion, I was ashamed of myself for having shared that ugly suspicion with Ann. When she got up to leave, I felt even worse that I had burdened her, for I could see that she was becoming more and more incapacitated by her rheumatoid arthritis, yet I marveled at how she almost never complained or made reference to her pain.

After Ann left, I prayed, asking the Lord to give her the strength she needed to cope; especially with the Christmas season upon us, there was so much to do. I also petitioned the Lord, asking Him to protect David. I so hoped Ann was right in her assessment, that he couldn’t be addicted to those pain pills, yet I had my doubts, as for some time I had known that all was not right in his life.

During the Christmas holidays, I invited Ann to dinner. When we finished eating, we retired to the living room and sat before the blazing fire in the fireplace. At first its warmth and charm failed to alter her sad mood. With folded arms, appearing totally dejected, she stared down at her misshapen feet and sounded even unhappier, saying, “Ellen, thanks for inviting me over; if you hadn’t called I would probably be lying down, hoping I could fall asleep. It seems that’s all I want to do anymore.”

In an effort to change her mood, I responded, “Ann, please don’t talk that way; God had given you a beautiful family and they desperately need you.”

“Oh, come on, Ellen,” she answered, releasing a well of tears. “Just take a good look at me.” Almost inaudibly she added, “Sometimes, even though I know better, I feel God doesn’t even exist. Or if He does, He has forgotten all about me.”

Hearing her, I began to understand her quiet demeanor; she had kept all that pain buried within herself.

I responded immediately. “Ann, I know how drastically your life has changed because of this illness, but you can’t just give up on life or on God. With and in Him you can find the peace and comfort you need to carry on.” A shiver of determination went through my body as I reached for my Bible. “You may not be up to it right now,” I said. “But let’s see if the Lord has a Word for us, one to lift us up.”

She gave no sign of either objection or agreement, so I simply went ahead and randomly opened the Bible. My eyes fell upon Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 16; in briefly scanning it, I considered it a most appropriate passage for us in that moment in time.

Before I began reading, I silently thanked God, knowing the scripture had opened to that exact page only through the guidance of His Holy Spirit:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow Me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lost it; but anyone who loses his life for My sake will find it. What then will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life?”

Reading from the accompanying reference notes, I added, “Ann, here we read that the word ‘life’ means the life of our soul as well as that of our person. Jesus is telling us that even if we possess the entire world, we are not able to buy an extra second of life on Earth. And that’s okay, because what we must be concerned about is the life of our soul, our spirit, because it lives on after physical death. And we cannot risk the loss of our soul by turning away from God.”

“In that Scripture reading, Jesus is telling us to accept our burden, to carry our cross, whatever it might be. He did, after all, lay out the pattern for us; we need only follow in His Way and we will find the strength we need to persevere.”

I could see the tears running down Ann’s cheeks and I handed her a tissue to dry her eyes. I also needed one for myself. It grieved me to see my beloved cousin suffering so much. After a few moments had passed, I said, “Ann, I know it’s difficult to accept this hope-filled message, especially when you are suffering as much as you are, but remember Jesus promised that when we accept and carry our cross, it will be lightened. C’mon, what do you say? Let’s continue getting together to pray, read, and learn about the Way He offers.”

I was so pleased when I saw her nod her head in agreement.

In the following months, I was even happier as I watched an almost miraculous change take place in Ann. While her physical condition continued to worsen, she no longer appeared to be depressed. Once again we could see her beautiful dimples, because she smiled more often.

ELLEN CHAKSIL (pen name for Helen Silvestri) is the author of “With God There Is Hope: Hope for Humanity.” She is a member of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Charismatic Prayer Group in Scranton, Pa. She began receiving messages from God in 1978. She needed to share what she experienced with church officials. Her quest led her from her home in Northeast Pennsylvania to the Vatican. After numerous attempts, she was able to make contact. In 1992, she met Pope John Paul II and in 1996 she received official recognition that he had read her letter detailing the prophecy she received from God. Ellen also contacted Boguslaw Lipinski, Ph.D of Harvard Medical School. He provided hypothetical proof of the concept that when people gather to pray, energy is emitted. Now Ellen’s goal is to help unite the world in prayer to generate the power great enough to forestall catastrophe and enable humanity’s continued existence. She hopes her book will be an instrument to raise awareness of the power of prayer.

Visit Ellen’s blog at: catholiccharismaticprophecies.blogspot.com
Visit Ellen’s Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000344651305&ref=name


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Holiday Memories: A Family Together by Bernadine Feagins

Holiday Memories is a month long series of heartwarming holiday stories from authors all over the world.  We at As the Pages Turn hope you will enjoy and have a happy holiday full of good and happy memories!

A Family Together
by Bernadine Feagins

Some of my favorite Christmas memories are the ones where my family is all together. One year, I made a sweet potato pie and my son, who I call Mickey, ate two big pieces.

That was a good year. My daughter was happy to have a new cell phone and I delighted in watching my children open their toys.  I felt blessed that I had enough money to make their Christmas wishes come true.

It is our tradition to celebrate Christmas early in the morning by reading about the birth of Jesus and listening to Christmas songs. I have a feeling that the kids were too excited to sleep the night before because my daughter went back to bed after the festivities were over and my son fell asleep listening to music.  We were all together and that helped make this mother very happy.

Bernadine Feagins is a new author who is looking forward to many years of writing children’s books. She has always had a love of children and worked many years in early childhood education. During these times she witnessed the joy children felt as she would demonstratively read books. In addition she is a very active mom who loves to nurture not only her children, but those of family and community. She often had story time with those she loved and cared for. She developed her story telling skills through the numerous books she read to children, this gave her an inspiration to tell her own story. Hakim and Terrance Shadow Mystery is the result. When Bernadine isn’t reading to children or involved in some other child nurturing activity, she can be found as a business woman that works for the IRS. Bernadine is available for interviews, book signings or public reading in schools and libraries.

Visit Bernadine online at http://www.mvpmedia1.com/feaginsworld/.

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Holiday Memories: Grandma’s Home-Going by Dixie Phillips

Holiday Memories is a month long series of heartwarming holiday stories from authors all over the world.  We at As the Pages Turn hope you will enjoy and have a happy holiday full of good and happy memories!

Grandma’s Home-Going
by Dixie Phillips

For as long as I can remember, the heart of my paternal grandmother and my heart were cemented together. I think our bonding began when I was a baby and my mother had to be hospitalized for extended periods of time. Grandma watched over me and even decorated her spare bedroom in soft pinks and light lavenders. She was the mother of four strapping sons and had always wanted a little girl. Ten years before I was born her only daughter was stillborn.

I never realized just how attached I was to my grandmother until she was diagnosed with a deadly disease. After her diagnosis, Grandma was forced to move from her dream home to a small, one-bedroom apartment. In her new apartment complex, other women were experiencing the similar problems; terminal illness, limited income, loss of spouse to death or a nursing home. A remnant of these women formed a weekly Bible study and Grandma became a faithful member. This band of prayer warriors became “kindred spirits” as they interceded for one another’s needs.

It was apparent by early November Grandma would not be with us much longer. Her spirit was strong, but her body was growing weaker. A few days before Thanksgiving, she had to be hospitalized. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs.

Word spread quickly among her little Bible study group that Grandma Eleanor was dying. Loving cards and concerned phone calls began pouring in.

I hurried to the hospital and hovered over my grandmother’s weak frame. There was a tap on her Hospice room door and an elderly woman appeared. In her arms was a brown paper grocery sack. She tiptoed to Grandma’s bedside, and stooped over the metal bedrail and planted a kiss on Grandma’s cheek. Grandma’s dark chocolate eyes twinkled when she recognized her friend.

“Mable, how did you get here?” Grandma asked.

“Took a cab, Eleanor. I just had to.” Mable chuckled, “It’s cold outside, but it was warm in the cab!”

“Oh Mable, you shouldn’t have come out in this bitter cold.”

“I had to, Eleanor! Christmas is coming. I wanted you to have your Christmas card and the gift I made for you! It’s all right here in my bag.”

Mable rummaged through her brown bag. She pulled out a bright red envelope.

“This one is from me to you, Eleanor!” She showed Grandma the card. Sunbeams splashed on the colorful card causing Mable’s eyes to squint.

“Let me read it to you.” Mable said,

What can I give Him poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I’d give Him a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I’d do my part,
I know what I’ll give Him,
All of my heart!

Tears glistened in Grandma’s eyes as she whimpered, “Thank you, Mable.”

“That’s not all, Eleanor, there’s more! Christmas is coming! I just wanted you to have your Christmas present a little early this year.” Mable gushed as she pulled out a small package wrapped in previously used Christmas paper topped with a recycled, red bow.

Grandma was too weak to open her special gift. Mable handed it to me. I carefully tore the paper off the small box and opened the lid. Peering back at me was a brown teddy bear holding a lacey parasol.

“Yep, it’s true, Eleanor! Christmas is coming, and I just had to give you your present a little early this year.” Mable reached for Grandma’s hand.

“Mable, thank you and all the other ladies for being my friend this past year. You tell our little group goodbye for me. Tell them I’ll be spending Christmas with Jesus this year.”

Scalding tears fell on Mable’s wrinkled cheeks. “I love you, Eleanor!”

“And I love you!” Grandma closed her heavy eyelids and drifted off to sleep.

Mable reached for me. We embraced. We wept. I thanked her for her kindness to my grandmother, walked her to the door, and said goodbye.

When I returned to my grandmother’s side, I wept quietly. I realized Grandma’s “home-going” would be soon. I looked at the brown teddy bear holding the lacey parasol. I reread Mable’s Christmas card,

What can I give Him poor as I am?

I had just witnessed these verses lived out before my eyes. A loving friend with meager means had given her very best to her dying friend. She even celebrated Christmas before Thanksgiving knowing Grandma wouldn’t live until Christmas.

I closed my eyes and silently thanked God for giving me such a wonderful grandmother, and for giving my grandmother a dear friend.

Grandma went home to be with Jesus two days after Mable’s visit. My grandmother was right. She celebrated Christmas with Jesus.

Dixie Phillips began writing seasonal plays for children in 1987. These delightful programs have been published by Abingdon Press, Standard Publishing, Eldridge Publishing, Evangelizing Today’s Child and Gospel Publishing House. One of Dixie’s children’s books, Stubby’s Destiny, was awarded the 2008 Best Children’s Animal Story by Books and Authors. Guardian Angel Publishing has released Angel Eyes, One Noble Journey and Baby Jesus is Missing. Cinderfella and the Furry Godmother and Stilts the Stork will be released in 2010.

Dixie also has a passion for writing God’s truths for adults. She has contributed to an award-winning devotional book and has ghostwritten books on marriage, health, poetry and personal testimonies. She is currently a topical curriculum writer for Randall House. Dixie is a pastor’s wife of more than 30 years. She and her husband, Paul, have four grown children and have served the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Floyd, Iowa, for 28 years.

You can learn more about Dixie’s books and the Phillips’ ministry by visiting www.floydslighthouse.com.


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Holiday Memories: The Night I Woke Up to Saint Nick by Stephen V. Masse

Holiday Memories is a month long series of heartwarming holiday stories from authors all over the world.  We at As the Pages Turn hope you will enjoy and have a happy holiday full of good and happy memories!

The Night I Woke Up to Saint Nick
by Stephen V. Masse

Our family tradition was to arrange the manger scene beneath the live Christmas tree in our living room. My mother had won the manger, and all the figurines were made of white marble, with a shimmering bisque finish. When we set up the manger, my mother would always put the baby Jesus figurine on the mantel, because he was not to be born until Christmas. It was Santa’s privilege to put Jesus in the manger.

I turned ten one week before Christmas. I could still taste the spicy ribbon candy that left our hands sticky, feel the pine against my face as I joined my four siblings in decorating the tree and setting up the manger. My father cut branches to reshape the tree, and the extras ended up in a crackling fire.

Christmas Eve in our family was a feast as close to heaven as one can find on earth, and I wish that every soul could experience something like it. Music from every corner of the world, from Italy to England, Russia, Spain and beyond! Our version of the traditional Italian fish feast began with stuffed calamari in a light tomato sauce over capellini pasta, then fried shrimp, smelts and eels that my father cooked diligently in olive oil, sampling with his glass of wine. Mom tended the oven, crammed with baked-stuffed shrimp, stuffed escarole, stuffed artichokes, and roasted chestnuts, all while fielding phone calls and directing traffic to and from the dining room.

In those days, our Jewish neighbors would drop in, and we would share stories and food, and they would give each of us kids an envelope. Mrs. LeBovidge had the most wonderful Austrian accent. She grew up in Vienna, and told us that her father used to get a tree during the holidays because he enjoyed the tradition. She said that during Hitler’s rise to power, troopers came to inspect the building. The non-Jewish neighbors took her and other Jewish children into their homes to protect them. But in the end, she and her sister had to flee. It reminded me of Joseph and Mary fleeing into Egypt to escape Herod.

After dinner we retired with dessert to the living room, fire blazing, Mom at the old upright piano as we sang Christmas carols and hung our stockings on the mantel.

Then, bedtime!

I woke up in the middle of the night to hear footsteps on the carpeted living room floor. My heart was pounding, mostly with the realization that for the first time in my whole childhood, I was wide awake while Santa Claus was in my house! There was no rustling of packages, only the footsteps.

I didn’t dare move, for respect of the Saint’s presence. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of the marble figurine of baby Jesus being drawn across the mantel. A few more footsteps, and then the sound of baby Jesus being placed in the wooden manger with Mary and Joseph, and with us.

Stephen V. Masse is author of A Jolly Good Fellow,  winner of a Silver Medal in the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards, as well as honorable mention in the 2008  New England Book Festival for best books of the holiday season.

Masse’s next book for children, Short Circus, is being released this winter.


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