First Chapter of GOODBYE NOEL

Not just a Christmas novel…New Year’s themes. A story about new beginnings.

The best way to decide if you’ll like a novel is to read a chapter.

Chapter One

Long Island, NY

December 1946

Katrina Lenart nodded toward a break in the leafless maples and snow-covered pines lining Hill Street then pointed with her black cable knit glove. A fat blue jay sat on the tip of a pine branch and quirked his head at her, almost mocking. The sun, more the color of wheat than yellow, floated in the pale, cloudless, winter sky, surrendering little heat.

“It might seem like we’re almost there to you, but we still have to climb that hill.” It wasn’t high, but steep, as if a pitiless hand had gouged earth from its side. She turned her head back and squinted against the glare off the snow, adjusting her black velvet earmuffs, stitched into a floret on one side, all the rage since the war.

“Said just like a female.” Willie Brogna grinned, pulling the toboggan behind him, his rubber boots stomping deep impressions in the fresh fallen snow. Pivoting, he gave her a wide smile. “I know you’re just being nice, helping me try out my favorite Christmas present. With my sister on her honeymoon and all, I don’t have anyone to be my guinea pig.” He resumed his climb, out-pacing her, and chuckled under his breath.

Determined to put her best friend’s teenage brother in his place, Katrina lengthened her strides and arrived at the top of the incline breathing hard. “People often comment on how nice I am… and courteous. Willing to help those in need.” She tossed off a teasing smile.

The tall, lanky teen snorted then tugged on his hand-knit gloves, securing them, and flexed his fingers.

Shading her eyes with a glove, she gazed south, unable to see the village of Sanctuary Point or the Great South Bay through the trees. Though she knew icy wind whipped them both. The weather forecast said a storm was headed their way. Directly below, the ground dropped away into an empty lot. Beyond that, Hill Street and the tiny Bauer cottage.

“Are you ready? I’ll steer and you take the rumble seat.” Willie knelt and positioned the toboggan for the first run down the steep hill. “Don’t forget to hang on tight, I’m gonna let ‘er rip, if that won’t bruise the dignity of Memorial’s most promising nurse.”

Katrina gave him a playful smack on the arm. “How you do go on. Just watch out for that huge bump down there.”

“Aw, that’s not even a blip on the radar.”

She hunkered down behind him and clasped her arms around his waist. The toboggan sped down the hill, her hair airborne behind her. Icy snow crystals flew into her face. They hit the bump and went aloft. “Willieee,” she shrieked.

They landed so hard her teeth clattered.

When they came to a stop, Willie jumped off. “While we were in the air, I saw something near Mrs. Bauer’s cottage. Does she have a pet? A cat, maybe? It looked like a hurt animal… something bloody.”

He trotted across the street. “It’s not in the yard. It’s away from the house. Closer and to the side of the road.” He hastened down Hill Street, slipping and sliding, to the edge of the Bauer property.

Katrina hurried down the sloping street after him, her arms stretched out for balance. If this were his idea of a practical joke, she’d let him have it.

Willie bent over the object on the ground. Rising, he twisted toward her. “Well, it’s not an animal. It’s a piece of soiled cloth.”

Rushing to his side, she tried to catch her breath. “That’s blood on a kitchen towel. Not a lot, but sufficient to warrant concern.” Please, Lord, let everything be all right in the Bauer house.

“Do you suppose Mrs. Bauer cut herself out here? But why would she come all the way out here with a kitchen towel?”

“We’d better check on her.” Katrina raced back up the hill after Willie along the length of the lot, as fast as she could. She slipped but regained her footing on the Bauer’s icy walk. When she reached the stoop, she panted in short painful gasps.

Willie hurdled the two steps and came to a stop on the miniscule porch. The front door stood ajar.

Uneasiness halted her winded, ungraceful gait. Yet, Katrina followed until she stood before the door and called out, “Mrs. Bauer, hello.”

Willie nudged the door and shouted. “Mrs. Bauer, are you in there?”

She peered between the door and its frame into dimness. “Mrs. Bauer… Noel, it’s Katrina, your neighbor.”

“This is getting us nowhere.” Willie gave the door a shove.

The living room was chilly and silent — something definitely not right. Mrs. Bauer wouldn’t leave the door open on such a cold day, not even a crack. Katrina eased in. “Hello, anyone home?” She stepped around the couch and froze.

Noel Bauer lay on her living room floor, in front of a decorated Christmas tree. Blood pooled beneath her head.

“Oh, my Lord.” Katrina rushed to the woman and knelt, applying two fingers to her neck. “Willie, she has no pulse.”

“I mean, I know you’re a nurse, but are you sure?”

“She’s dead.” Katrina’s voice shook in her throat. “She’s not breathing and her body temperature isn’t warm.”

“The telephone lines come up here, so I’ll bet she has a phone. We’d better call the police. This is awful.” His eyes darted around the room. “There… in the kitchen.”

Katrina took a deep breath and calmed herself. How strange and brutal life could be. Yesterday, gay and carefree, she stood as maid-of-honor in Willie’s sister’s wedding. Today she’d found Noel Bauer’s corpse.

She hurried to the phone, dialed the village operator, and asked to be connected to the police station. After relaying the information to young Officer Classen, whose mother worked with her at the hospital, she sank onto a chair at the table and held her head in her hands. There was something peculiar about the position of Noel Bauer’s body Katrina couldn’t put her finger on, as if she were reaching for something.

Cries of an infant came from the bedroom down the hallway.

*****

Standing by the Christmas tree, Katrina rocked the baby wrapped in a pink blanket. She took a small green and white glass ornament from the top of the tree and dangled it before the tiny face. “Look how pretty. Your mommy made such a lovely tree for you.” Her eyes misted, and her gaze slid to the lifeless form on the floor. The house reflected the woman’s efforts to turn a meager cottage into a comfortable home with touches of handcrafted style and elegance. On the wall above an aging sofa, a needlepoint wall hanging in a simple frame depicted two swans floating on a lily pond that could well have hung in a fine gallery.

“Detective Daltry’s here.” Willie turned from the window and hurried to open the door.

Ian Daltry entered with rookie-officer Robert Classen at his heels. The detective removed his brown fedora freeing a riot of salt and pepper hair. He nodded toward Katrina. “Miss Lenart, you phoned the station?”

“Yes, Willie and I found Mrs. Bauer.” She glanced at the teen, who stood by the front window, a stricken look on his face, and her heart went out to the boy. Her gaze shifted to the detective and then down to the body. “She’s gone.”

Detective Daltry placed his hat on the coffee table and bent over the still form. The blood on the floor, dark and thick, had begun to coagulate. It gave off a metallic smell. Straightening, he looked at Katrina, his lips in a tight line. “You’re right. She’s dead. I’d guess less than an hour.”

Katrina took a halting step toward the body, but the detective put up a staying hand to stop her. She cleared her throat. “Severe trauma to the head. She couldn’t survive a wound like that.”

“That’s my take on it. I’ll phone the medical examiner.”

Willie pointed. “Phone’s in the kitchen.”

Katrina took a quick step forward. “Is it murder?”

The detective pivoted, and the intensity of his eyes pierced her soul. “I really can’t say Miss. It’s very early in the investigation.” He turned on his heel, crossed the living room, and disappeared.

Katrina followed stiff legged part way across the room. She felt cold, and it wasn’t just because the door had been open. She wanted to do something, but didn’t know what. It wasn’t illness that had killed Noel Bauer, and it wasn’t accidental death. What else could it be but murder? She shuddered. How awful for Mrs. Bauer and this poor dear baby.

Officer Classen stepped forward and blocked her path. “You can’t go into the kitchen.”

She stopped in her tracks, stroked the infant’s soft hair, and held her closer. “I had no idea Mrs. Bauer had a new baby. She closed the house in early spring last year and was gone over six months. She’s been back only about three months.” Since then, she’d been reclusive, but why?

The baby grabbed for the ornament and cooed.

Katrina lifted the glass bulb away from the tiny hand. “Oh no, you don’t. You’re a quick little lady, aren’t you? Yes you are.” She made an exaggerated smiling face and shook her head. “Such an energetic little thing, you are.”

The baby started fussing.

“And now your mood has changed. Are you cold, sweetheart?” Katrina pulled the blanket tight around the infant, rubbed her tiny hands, and blew warm breath on them.

“I’d like to throw a log on the fire for the baby, but can’t touch anything until we complete our investigation.” The young officer shifted from foot to foot.

“I understand. You can’t make an exception for the baby?”

“No, if we disturb things we might be destroying the fingerprints of the killer.”

“I see. I think she’s cranky more than cold, though it is chilly in here.”

Detective Daltry emerged from the kitchen and advanced toward her. He touched the pink blanket. “A girl.” A tremor ran through his fingers, and he dropped his hand to his side.

“Isn’t she pretty?” Katrina stroked the infant’s face. When she glanced up, she thought she saw pain flicker in the detective’s eyes, and then it was gone.

“Her mother was lovely. By all accounts a cultured lady. Such a shame.” Officer Classen stood over the body with a camera. “Detective, do you want me to start taking photographs?”

He cleared his throat. “Yes, begin with the body and work out to the periphery of the room. Don’t spare the film.”

The child gurgled, squirmed, and kicked her legs against the coverlet wrapped tight around her.” Aren’t you a feisty one?” Katrina kissed the baby’s little fist. “You’re going to be fine. Somehow, I’ll make sure. I promise.”

The detective rocked back on his heels and raked his hand through his hair, mangling it. He cast a quick glance at the hearth. “With the fire nearly out and the door opening and closing, perhaps the child shouldn’t be here. I can phone my neighbor. She watches my daughter when I’m working. I’m sure she’d look after the little one until we figure out what to do with her.”

The baby made a face and fidgeted, her knees pumping.

“No. That’s not necessary.” Katrina held the baby tighter, her need to protect this infant growing by the second. “I live down the street, and I’m a maternity nurse. If you consent, I’ll take her home. I’m sure my mother will agree to mind her while I’m working at the hospital.”

A huge wail came from the tiny mouth.

“Maybe she’s hungry.” Willie took two quick steps. “Let me see if there’s milk in the kitchen.”

The detective shook his head. “Sorry, off limits. You can’t touch or remove anything. We haven’t done a walk-through yet, and they’ll want to brush for fingerprints.”

Katrina placed the baby on her shoulder and rubbed her back in a circular motion. “This child can’t drink bottled milk. I’m sure her mother nursed her, most do. We’ll have to make formula from evaporated milk.” What did men know about babies?

“Won’t you need a baby bottle?” Willie plunked both hands on his hips.

“Yes, or something similar. I need to get this baby home where Momma can help me.” Katrina bounced the fussing infant in her arms and checked the seat of the diaper. “She’s dry and didn’t leave us a present in her pants.”

Detective Daltry moved to Katrina’s side and stroked the baby’s back. “Officer Classen can drive you home.” He turned toward the rookie cop. “Wait up on the photos and take this young woman and the child down the hill. When you get to the edge of the Bauer property, drive on the wrong side of the street. On your way back, get that cone out of the trunk and mark the spot. I’m calling the troopers station to see if they can get any tire impressions near where we picked up the bloody towel.”

“If Lorne Kincade was finished with trooper training, we’d get that done right quick.” Robert opened the door and held it for Katrina.

“You bet you would.” Willie tried for a grin, but only one side of his lips lifted. “Thing is, he won’t even start the training until he and my sister get back from their honeymoon.”

Katrina rocked the baby whose face had turned bright pink. “Heavens to Betsy, let’s not rush the newlyweds home in our talk.” She tried for a smile and managed a small one.

The detective pivoted toward the window. “Mr. Brogna… Willie, I’d like you to stay. I have questions for you. Miss Lenart, I’ll question you later.”

The infant emitted a piercing cry.

Katrina hurried toward the door. “Our house is the first one on the right side.”

Purchase Links:

Amazon (including Kindle). http://tinyurl.com/7ppnrk5

Barnes & Noble (including Nook): http://tinyurl.com/cgp7e6o

Sony Reader Store.   http://tinyurl.com/d88n7b2

 

A Crime Fiction Christmas

I’m dreaming of crime fiction novels that make me feel like Christmas. They might have horses dashing through snow and sleigh bells ringing, or chestnuts roasting, or angels on high. Or they might conjure up ye olde Yuletide feeling…that sitting before a roaring fire feeling.

GOLD FRANKINCENSE AND MURDER by Barbara Early

High school geometry teacher, Donna Russell likes her life well-ordered and logical, even if it is a tad solitary at times. But when a charming co-worker at the local food bank disappears just before Christmas, Donna is left with more questions than solutions.

After the missing man’s neighbor, muscle-bound EMT Sam Holton, volunteers as Donna’s crime-fighting sidekick, sparks fly between them. Donna wonders if Same can be trusted, or if he’s trying to throw an unknown into her calculations–and her life.

And when police recover a body from the icy Niagara River, Donna is faced with the most frustrating equation of all: can murder plus mayhem ever equal romance?

GOODBYE NOEL by Nike Chillemi

The first body is found under a trimmed Christmas tree, the second as they ring in the New Year (1947), the third goes head long out a window. Will a young pediatric nurse determined to make it on her own be able to care for an infant whose mother was murdered and escape the killer who has struck again? Can she trust the stalwart village detective with her life and her heart as he works to catch this killer before somebody else dies?

Pediatric nurse, Katrina Lenart, grew up strong willed and independent minded, while sharing her mother’s flair for high fashion. When the police chief gives her an orphaned baby to care for, her maternal instincts take over and she’s willing to fight anyone who might not have the infant’s best interests at heart, even the man she’s growing to love. After an attempt is made to kidnap the baby, she and the resolute village detective team up and do some sleuthing, undercover at a cult as well as at a fancy ball.

Detective Ian Daltry is a widower with a child and is not interested in a new love. Hunting a killer who stops at nothing has placed him in the position where he must protect a beautiful young woman he’s drawn to. Is there’s something he’s overlooked in analyzing the case? Will he find out what that is before this ruthless murderer kills someone he loves?

SEASON OF DANGER by Hannah Alexander

After sabotage strikes the Vance Rescue Mission, volunteer Sean Torrance tries to guarantee the mission a safe Christmas. But can Sean protect Tess Vance when the sabotage becomes poisonous — with Tess as the target?

MISTLETOE AND MAYHEM by Kate Kingsbury

At the Pennyfoot Hotel, Cecily Sinclair Baxter and her staff are hustling and bustling more than ever. Cecily’s dear friend Madeline arrives with her new baby and adds a kissing bough to the holiday decorations. But after a footman and a new maid are seen kissing under the bough and turn up dead, the staff is convinced a serial killer is spending the holidays at the Pennyfoot. And when Madeline’s baby disappears, Cecily has her hands full desperately trying to find the child. If she doesn’t catch the killer in time, everyone’s cheer will quickly turn to fear…

Announcing the Cover For GOODBYE NOEL

Will a young pediatric nurse determined to make it on her own be able to care for an infant whose mother was murdered and escape the killer who has struck again? Can she trust the stalwart village detective with her life and her heart as he works to catch this killer before somebody else dies?

Pediatric nurse, Katrina Lenart, grew up strong willed and independent minded, while sharing her mother’s flair for high fashion. When the police chief gives her an orphaned baby to care for, her maternal instincts take over and she’s willing to fight anyone who might not have the infant’s best interests at heart, even the man she’s growing to love. After an attempt is made to kidnap the baby, she and the resolute village detective team up and do some sleuthing, undercover as well as at a fancy ball.

Detective Ian Daltry is a widower with a child and is not interested in a new love. Hunting a killer who stops at nothing has placed him in the position where he must protect a beautiful young woman he’s drawn to. Is there’s something he’s overlooked in analyzing the case? Will he find out what that is before this ruthless murderer kills someone he loves?

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon (including Kindle). http://tinyurl.com/7pt8qd4

Barnes & Noble (including Nook). http://tinyurl.com/7gmnqph

Character Interview, YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW by Cathy West, Honoring Veteran’s Day

I thought I’d do something a bit different and let Erica Brogna, the heroine in my debut novel BURNING HEARTS interview Kristin Taylor, the heroine in Cathy West’s YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW.

Erica, a character from the post WWII period (1946), was intrigued when she learned about career-driven journalist Kristin who hailed from the Viet Nam era in YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW. Erica became impressed with Kristin’s commitment to go to war-torn Viet Nam in 1967. So much so, that Erica had a burning desire to interview Kristin in honor of Veterans Day.

Erica: I’m thrilled that you were able to do this interview. In my time, Kristin, I was considered daring simply because after I married I opened my own dress shop and would occasionally be seen around the village in slacks. Of course, that was 1946. YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW is set in 1967 and you courageously took off for the battleground of Viet Nam hoping to garner a Pulitzer Prize. That’s quite ambitious. Can you tell us what motivated you?

Kristin:  Thanks, Erica! I think my driving ambition to become a foreign correspondent was due in large part to my father. He was one of the best. He died in Vietnam on assignment, when I was twelve. I always knew I wanted to write stories like him, but after his death it was more like something I had to do. After my brother enlisted, I didn’t see any reason to stick around. I went to Vietnam to discover the truth and try to form my own understanding of a war that seemed confusing to everyone I talked to back home.

Erica: You must have seen many injured and dead US soldiers in Viet Nam. I recall that in my era, by the end of Word War II, I was heartsick because we’d lost so many boys in the war. How did you handle your emotions witnessing many horrific scenes?

Kristin: At first I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stomach it. Nothing could have prepared me for the things I saw in Vietnam. When you’re sitting at home watching the news, it doesn’t really sink in. But when it’s right there in front of you, death, that’s when you know you’ve woken up in hell. Over there people had different ways of coping. They partied. Talked sports. Anything to get their minds off what was going on around them. I tried to ignore it, tell myself it didn’t matter, but of course it did. After a while I kind of got numb, you know? Once I came home I knew I had to deal with those feelings. But it was hard.

Erica: In my time, US military personnel were held in the highest esteem in America. I always carried a special honor and respect in my heart for GIs and veterans. I married one. It was quite different during the Viet Nam War. Boys going to battle then weren’t given the respect they deserved. How did you feel about that when you knew so well what they suffered in the war?

Kristin: It made me sick to see how our boys were treated when they came home. Almost like second-class citizens. Like they’d
done something wrong, committed a great sin by going to Vietnam and fighting for their country. I was even treated with disdain because I wrote stories about the war. Most people at home just didn’t get it. There was little to no support for our GIs once they hit American soil. After everything they went through, all they gave up, its just tragic, really.

Erica: By the end of WWII, II was in a pretty serious spiritual crisis. Our tiny village had lost so many of the boys I’d grown up with. How did the things you witnessed affect your spiritual life? Did it totally alter your worldview?

Kristin: Absolutely. Nothing was the same for me after Vietnam. For a long time though, I was very angry with God. I couldn’t understand how he could allow such devastation, so many lives were being lost, and there seemed no end to the horror. Even when I came home, I still wasn’t ready to fully acknowledge who God was or that I needed him in my life. I was in crisis, I just didn’t know it. I think when you witness so much tragedy, it changes you. Hardens you and sows seeds of bitterness if you let it. But God didn’t give up on me, and eventually I came to realize my need for Him and that sometimes there just aren’t answers to the hard questions. God’s grace is sufficient.

Erica: Let’s talk a little out of school. Do you think there will be a sequel to YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW? You know author Cathy West better than most. What other projects is she working on?

Kristin: Well, I suppose there should be more to this story, shouldn’t there? I have a feeling between Luke and I, we can convince her to continue our story at some point. At the moment though I think she’s working on a few other projects, but none of them have bombs going off or anything. Not very exciting if you ask me.

Author Bio: Educated in Bermuda, England and Canada, Catherine holds a degree in English from the University of Toronto. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. Catherine and her husband live on the beautiful island of Bermuda, with their two college-aged children. Catherine is a member of Romance Writers of America, and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and is a founding member of International Christian Fiction Writers. Catherine’s debut novel YESTERDAY’S TOMORROW, released through OakTara Publishers. Catherine’s next novel, Hidden in the Heart is coming soon, also through OakTara.

Purchase Links: a

Oak Tara Publishers.  http://www.oaktara.com

Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Yesterdays-Tomorrow-Catherine-West/dp/160290278X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320256407&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/yesterdays-tomorrow-catherine-west/1102624394

Cathy’s Website: http://www.catherinejwest.com

List of Small Publishing Houses for Christian Fiction

Below is my list (not a complete listing by any means) of small and/or independent publishing houses that have a Christian fiction imprint, or that are Christian fiction friendly/family friendly.

Christian:

Flaming Pen Press:  YA, Christian fantasy   http://flamingpenpress.blogspot.com

Marcher Lord Press: Speculative Fiction  http://marcherlordpress.com/ 

New Canaan Publishing, Christian children’s books & humor,  http://www.newcanaanpublishing.com/index.html

Oak Tara: Christian, Fiction, Non-fiction   http://www.oaktara.com/home

Sheaf House Publishers:  Christian small press  http://www.sheafhouse.com

Sonfire Media:   http://www.sonfiremedia.com  

Sophia Institute Press: Catholic fiction  http://www.sophiainstitute.com

Splashdown: Christian sci-fi, fantasy  http://www.splashdownbooks.com

Stonehouse Ink: edgy Christian fic  http://www.thestonepublishinghouse.com/

Sword of the Spirit: Christian fiction, womens fic, romance, YA. http://donaldjamesparker.com/ProductDetails.aspx?id=419

Treble Heart Books: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, Historical.  http://www.trebleheartbooks.com/

Trestle Press:  Catholic, crime fiction, mystery. Open to Christian content http://trestlepress.typepad.com/my-blog     Contact: Giovanni Gelati on Goodreads

Vinspire Publishing: Christian, mystery, war, historical, etc. http://www.vrpublishing.com/index.html

Whitefire Publishing:  Chrisitan, romance     http://whitefire-publishing.com
Written World Communications: Imprints are Harpstring and Patchwork

http://www.writtenworldcommunications.com/content/guides.html

Upon This Rock Publishers, Christian ebook, some gen market http://crimefictionandfaith.blogspot.com/2011/06/cross-interviewing-terric-darken-and.html

Mixed: (Family Friendly, Christian Friendly)

Black Lyon Publishing: literary romance, historical romance contemporary romance, Christian

http://www.blacklyonpublishing.com

Muse It Up Publishing: Canadian ebook publisher. All genres. Will accept submission of gen market stories with one or more Christian characters that are not Inspy stories per se.

http://museituppublishing.com/

Samhain:  romance, mystery-suspense, action-adventure

http://www.samhainpublishing.com

Port Yonder Press: Christian titles and general market.  http://portyonderpress.com/home.aspx

Treasureline:  Gen market and Christian thrillers  http://treasurelinebooks.com/default.aspx

Wild Horse Press: ebooks, general market with an inspy line  http://www.wildhorsepress.webs.com/

BURNING HEARTS Gets 11 Five-Star Reviews on Amazon

Fastpaced, action packed debut novel from Nike chillemi delivers!

Erica brogna is a head strong but lovable character that investigates the death of her beloved friend. Things progress from bad to worse when she finds her friend’s house on fire. Braving the flames, she goes in search of her friend only to be stopped moments later by the burning conflagration. What to do? This heroine doesn’t run outside to wring her hands, but to find herself a hero. And what a hero he turns out to be!

Lorne Kincaid was just riding through town on his Harley when Erica practically throws herself in front of his bike to capture his attention. Coming to her rescue, he indeed shows himself to be the hero every woman wants – strong yet gentle. Lucky for Erica, he doesn’t just swoop into the house to save her friend, but also swoops into her heart as well.   ~   Amanda Stephan, Christian Romance Author

To see the other five-star reviews…
http://www.amazon.com/Sanctuary-Point-Book-One-ebook/product-reviews/B0050PJSTY/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_recent?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending