Friday, December 8, 2017

Cozy Christmas Reads: Cathe's story

Story Excerpt: Hope for the Holidays by Cathe Swanson 

Chapter 1

At the Unity Plenkiss Community Center

“It was nice to meet you, Dearie. I hope you like it here.”
The elderly woman patted Carrie’s hand, slid the candy into her purse, and headed toward the door.
Carrie started. “Hey!”
The old lady quickened her pace.
“That’s mine!” Indignant, Carrie hoisted her bag onto her shoulder before giving chase. No point in getting anything else stolen. “Wait!”
Even with the head start, Carrie would have caught up with her if it hadn’t been for the man holding the door open.
“Hello, Mary.”
His friendly greeting was cut off as she ducked under his arm and bolted down the sidewalk. He turned to stare after her.
“Stop that woman!” Carrie tried to push the man out of the way. “She took something that belongs to me.”
The man let the door close but stayed in front of it, blocking her pursuit.
“Excuse me!”
“What did she take?”
Carrie raised her chin and repeated, “She took something that belonged to me.”
He waited.
“She took my peanut butter cups.”
His brows shot up behind his glasses and a dimple creased his cheek. “Your peanut butter cups.”
“She knew they were mine.” Great. She sounded like a petulant child. She tried to slide past him, but he stepped back against the door.
“Please don’t chase her down. It’s just candy.”
“It’s not about the candy,” lied Carrie. It was all about the candy. She’d been anticipating the treat since boarding the airplane in Kinshasa nearly 24 hours ago and paid an extortionate price for it at the O’Hare airport, stuffing it into her bag so Roy wouldn’t tease her. She’d planned to eat it in her new office, as some sort of symbolic ritual, but she’d only made it as far as the unattended reception desk before stopping to chat with the old woman.
“I’ll buy you a new one.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. Was he patronizing her? She hated being patronized. Roy had already patted her on the head today, asking if she had achieved a full five feet yet, but Roy was her brother. This guy was a stranger.
“Why should you? It wasn’t your fault, unless she’s your mother or something.”
“Well,” he said, “I…”
The man was blushing. Her interest piqued, Carrie waited for him to continue.
“I’m the pastor of her church.”
She hadn’t expected that. “You’re her pastor? Have you ever mentioned to her that stealing is a sin? Because it’s one of the big ones, you know. Number eight on the top ten list.”
He scowled. “Yes, she knows that. We try to keep an eye on her. She doesn’t steal from stores or anything like that.”
“No bank robbery?” Carrie asked. If being the youngest of eight children had taught her anything useful, it was the old cliché: the best defense is a good offense. She wasn’t going to put up with ribbing about the candy. “What does she say when you confront her?”
“The last time someone tried to talk to her about it, she was so embarrassed that she stayed home from church and the community center for three days. When someone went out to check on her, they found she’d fallen and cracked a rib.”
“Ouch.” Carrie sighed. “Don’t worry about the candy. I’ll pick up another one tomorrow.”
“No, really, I’ll get you one.” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Micah Neresen. Interim pastor at the Blessed Church of The Holy Lamb and Sacred Lion.”
“The Blessed Church of the… really?”
“Most people call it the Lamb ‘n Lion,” he said. “You’re welcome to join us. Worship at nine and Sunday school at 10:45.” He pointed. “Two blocks down. You can see it from here when there aren’t any leaves on the trees.”
“The Blessed Church of the Sacred Lamb…”
“No,” he interrupted. “Holy Lamb and Sacred Lion.”
“Ah. Got it. I’m Carrie Strough.”
“Oh!” The man appeared surprised. “I didn’t… I know your brother, and I knew you were coming. I didn’t realize…”
“That I’m white? Is that a problem?”
“No, not at all. Nice to meet you.” He looked around. “Isn’t anyone here to meet you?”
“Roy picked me up at the airport. We stopped at his apartment to drop off my luggage, and then he had to do something here, so I came along. I thought I could poke around before I officially get started.”
“Spying out the land?”
“Just looking around.”
Roy emerged from the hallway. Carrie had forgotten that about him—for such a big man, he could be remarkably quiet.
“Micah!” He shook hands with the pastor. “I haven’t seen you in a while. How’ve you been?”
“Good! I came by to pick up some Thanksgiving dinner fliers, and I met your sister.”
Carrie slipped away before Roy could ruffle her hair and say something annoying. She roamed the lobby as they chatted, impatiently waiting for Roy to free himself so he could give her a tour. Mostly, though, she wanted to see her new office. Would it be big? With a window? Roy said it had been a teacher’s office before they converted the old school into the women’s shelter and community center. It had a desk and two chairs, he said, and a file cabinet and computer. She could put up pictures and get some plants to make it homey.
No, she thought, not homey. Home was a low, rambly building half a world away, behind concrete block walls that didn’t completely shut out the noise of the city. She had a new home now, with Roy, in an apartment on a quiet street near the community center, shaded with leaves that were just starting to turn colors. She had expected commuter trains, crowded city traffic thick with exhaust fumes, slums and modern skyscrapers; she hadn’t realized that a Chicago neighborhood might feel like a small town, with respectable houses and tidy lawns. It was still foreign to her.
Author bio: 

Cathe Swanson lives in Wisconsin with her husband of 32 years. They enjoy spending time with their family and being outdoors, kayaking, hiking, birdwatching and fishing, but summer is short in Wisconsin, so it’s important to have indoor hobbies, too. 

Cathe has been a quilter and teacher of quiltmaking for over 25 years, and she enjoys just about any kind of creative work, especially those involving fiber or paper.

Her family is growing steadily; she and her husband had three sons, and those boys all grew up and married delightful women and started producing grandchildren: four boys and three girls so far! The long Wisconsin winters are perfect for writing and reading books! 

Cathe enjoys writing stories with eccentric characters of all ages. Her books will make you laugh and make you cry – and then make you laugh again.

Connect with Cathe:
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Hope for the Holidays book blurb: Newly arrived from her home in the Congo and armed with a brand-new degree in nonprofit management, Carrie Strough is eager to organize and improve the Unity Plenkiss Community Center. 

Unfortunately, no one wants to be organized, and only Micah Neresen, the charming and handsome pastor of the local church, is interested in her plans. Or is he just interested in Carrie?

With a cast of lively and eccentric characters including a homeless vet with PTSD, a con man, an elderly couple with an over-the-top Christmas display, a feisty committeewoman with a past of her own, and a police investigation, Micah and Carrie wonder if there is any hope for the holidays this year!

Hope for the Holidays book review: "Readers of Cathe’s first Christmas novella Snow Angels will enjoy revisiting their old friends in Maly Park, but Hope for the Holidays is a stand-alone book sure to please lovers of light mystery and suspense. Cathe’s willingness to tackle life’s deeper questions head-on sets her apart from other authors in this genre. Why does God allow some people to live in desperate circumstances while others live in abundance? Where is God in suffering, tragedy, and PTSD? Cathe’s skillful storytelling in answering these questions brings the reader to a place of hope and trust in the goodness of God." ~Reviewed by Anne E. Phillips

Info for buying the book: Hope for the Holidays is exclusively available in Making Spirits Bright, a collection of Christmas novellas from Cathe Swanson, Chautona Havig, April Hayman and Toni Shiloh. 

"The Christmas Lights Collection returns with four new, never-before-released novellas in Making Spirits Bright! From romance to cozy mystery, this collection features contemporary novellas sure to get you in the Christmas spirit."

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Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of Cathe's book and the boxed set in which it is included, by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below: 

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  1. I love this story! 💗 It was a great read for the Christmas season! Cathe does a wonderful job developing the story and the characters in this novella!

  2. This sounds like an interesting cast of characters! I love a story about healing and triumph, I’d love to get a chance to read this one!

  3. This is a wonderful story! Ms. Swanson has yet to fail giving us a good read. Her books are inspirational and heartwarming.


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