Wednesday, March 31, 2010

52 Things Kids Need From A Dad by Jay Payleiner

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to David P. Bartlett - Print & Internet Publicist - of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jay Payleitner is one of the top freelance Christian radio producers in the United States. He has worked with the Josh McDowell Ministry, Voice of the Martyrs, Jesus Freaks Radio, and many others. He’s also a wrestling coach and author of several books, including 40 Days to Your Best Life for Men. Jay and his wife live in Illinois, where they spend a lot time with their mostly adult children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736927239
ISBN-13: 978-0736927239

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Kids Need Their Dad…

To Help Them Beat the Odds

Think of the top ten social crises of our time: Drug abuse. Teenage pregnancy. School shootings. Gangs. Spiritual confusion. Overcrowded prisons. AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Domestic violence. Drunk driving. And so on.

We can make the case that the most devastating rips in our social fabric would be radically reduced if dads were getting the job done at home.

Statistically, what happens when dads aren’t around?

Eighty-five percent of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home.
Children who live apart from their fathers are 4.3 times more likely to smoke cigarettes as teenagers than children growing up with their fathers in the home.
Fatherless boys and girls are twice as likely to drop out of high school; twice as likely to end up in jail; four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems.
Seventy-five percent of all adolescent patients in chemical-abuse centers come from fatherless homes.
Three out of four teenage suicides occur in households where a parent has been absent.
Adolescent females between the ages of 15 and 19 years reared in homes without fathers are significantly more likely to engage in premarital sex than adolescent females reared in homes with both a mother and a father.
Sound hopeless? Just the opposite. If father absence is devastating, leading to all kinds of bad decisions and societal ills, then father presence is the solution, right?

This hard data, along with all kinds of anecdotal evidence, is rarely brought into the light. Even with all the research, too many segments of society express little regard for fatherhood. The media, school administrators, television scriptwriters, judges, church leaders, and state agencies seem to say fathers don’t matter. Or they’ve given up on fathers. Or worse, we’re told fathers are part of the problem. The result is, men are driven away from their families, fathers are disenfranchised, and dads are afraid to hug their own kids.

But the inverse is true and must be said. Men need to hear, “Dad, you matter!” “Your children need you.” “Your wife (or the mother of your children) needs you to be more involved and more invested in the daily lives of your kids.” Without strong male role models, families suffer both short- and long-term. Children make bad decisions. Communities weaken. Government agencies flounder to fix problems after the fact. Taxes go up. Our streets aren’t safe. As soon as they graduate high school, young people turn their back on Jesus. The vibrant potential of the next generation is lost—in many cases, for eternity.

An oft-quoted survey found that if a mother attends church regularly with her children, but without their father, only 2 percent of those children will become regular church attendees. But if a father attends church regularly with his children, even without their mother, an astounding 44 percent choose to become regular church attendees on their own.

Yes, dads matter. Do you want more proof?

All you have to do is ask a kid.

Takeaway

Just opening this book and reading this far proves you want to be the kind of dad your kids need. You can do it, Dad.

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)

As Young As We Feel by Melody Carlson



This week, the




Christian Fiction Blog Alliance




is introducing




As Young As We Feel




David C. Cook; New edition (March 1, 2010)




by




Melody Carlson






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults--with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards. And her "Diary of a Teenage Girl" series has received great reviews and a large box of fan mail.



She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.







ABOUT THE BOOK



Is there room in one little hometown for four very different Lindas to reinvent their lives … together?



Once upon a time in a little town on the Oregon coast lived four Lindas—all in the same first-grade classroom. So they decided to go by their middle names. And form a club. And be friends forever. But that was forty-seven years and four very different lives ago. Now a class reunion has brought them all together in their old hometown—at a crossroads in their lives.



Janie is a high-powered lawyer with a load of grief. Abby is a lonely housewife in a beautiful oceanfront empty nest. Marley is trying to recapture the artistic free spirit she lost in an unhappy marriage. And the beautiful Caroline is scrambling to cope with her mother’s dementia and a Hollywood career that never really happened. Together, they’re about to explore the invigorating reality that even the most eventful life has second acts … and friendship doesn’t come with a statue of limitations.



If you would like to read the first chapter of As Young As We Feel, go HERE.



Watch the Video:





Note: Just got this book in the mail yesterday, and have not had a chance to read it yet.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Resurrection Eggs...... make your own

There is a cool concept that has been out on the Christian market: Resurrection Eggs. It is a dozen plastic eggs that have items inside to tell the Easter story to kids. I ran across a blog post telling how to make your own set to save money, so I am linking to the blog post over on Annette's blog. Check it out: Homemade Resurrection Eggs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On The Road Home by Terry Burns




This week, the


                                                         Christian Fiction Blog Alliance





is introducing





On The Road Home





Port Yonder Press; 1st edition (March 3, 2010)





by





Terry Burns
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Terry has over 30 books in print, including work in a dozen short story collections and four non-fiction books plus numerous articles and short stories.



His last book Beyond the Smoke is a 2009 winner of the Will Rogers Medallion for best youth fiction and a nominee for the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. He has a three book Mysterious Ways series out from David C Cook, and Trails of the Dime Novel from Echelon Press.



A graduate of West Texas State he did post graduate work at Southern Methodist University. Terry plans to continue writing inspirational fiction as well as working as an agent for Hartline Literary Agency. Terry is a native Texan Living in Amarillo, Texas with his lovely wife Saundra.





ABOUT THE BOOK



In our sound-byte society, short stories and poems will always have a place, especially when they've been penned by the likes of Terry Burns. This, the first of four in The Sagebrush Collection, is a compilation of fictional, autobiographical, and fiction-based-on-fact shorts and poems.

Through fluent cowboy-speak, author Terry Burns shares his heart with these sometimes somber, often humorous, always engaging glimpses of life. From short stories about time machines and troubled marriages to poems of roses and hauntingly cold winds, you’ll find much to savor on the pages within.

A born storyteller, Burns style is natural, conversational, and above all real. He’s a fifth generation Irish tale-weaver and a fourth generation Texas Teller of Tall Tales. Storytelling comes as natural to him as breathing.

Come along with Terry as he journeys “On the Road Home”. You’ll be glad you did.

If you would like to read the first chapter of On The Road Home, go HERE.

My review:

I have only read about half of the book so far, but it is an enjoyable read. Some of the stories are of the old West type, and some are just stories about everyday people. Occasionally, he puts a poem in between stories.

I've never read anything by this author, but I like his style. I am a big fan of books with several short stories in, so this is right up my alley, and unlike a full-length novel, I tend to read this type of book over a period of a few weeks, a story at a time.

This book looks like it is geared for men, but after reading at least half of the stories, I would have to say women would enjoy it also. So, if you enjoy books with several short stories in, check this book out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A day that will live in infamy

Note: This is a political post, and if you support Barrack Obama and the healthcare, you may not want to read any further.

I'm ticked. Furious. Sure, we need healthcare, but this travesty of a bill that was shoved through is not what we needed. A few problems I have with it, not in any particular order:

#1 we will be forced to pay for it, whether we want it or not. If we don't, or can't afford to, we will get a stiff fine.

#2 it gives the government too much more control into our private lives - which I for one, do not want

#3 regardless of Obama's executive order saying otherwise, it will fund abortions - it is in the bill, and his executive order cannot change law - and no, I didn't come up with that idea

#4 there was so much bribery, buying of votes, threats, and who knows what else, to get this bill through, it is pathetic

#5 Obama promised total transparency, that this bill would be posted 3 days before he voted on it for people to read - all lies, a big pack of lies

#6 This bill will most likely put private insurance companies out of business - something Obama said in 2007 that he wanted to do - they have him on video saying so - look it up

#7 this could very likely hurt churches and Christian schools, and other small businesses - everyone is going to have to buy insurance - and what about people like me, barely keeping my head above water with a part-time job?

#8 several people, and they are smarter and more knowledgeable than I - believe that this bill is unconsitituional - that the consitutution would forbid the government from forcing all Americans to buy health insurance - but Obama seems to be able to do anything he wants regardless

#9 This is going to raise taxes and hurt everyone in the long run

#10 We have to start paying now, but nothing will kick in til 2012 or 13 - can you imagine if Blue Cross and Blue Shield tried that? Have you start paying for coverage now, but it wouldn't kick in for 2-3 years? The government would shut them down in a hurry! But since Obama wants to do it, all is ok.

#11 I feel my rights are being trampled on and being ignored. I called and emailed my representative and senator, repeatedly. The majority of Americans were against this, but none of that mattered.

As I sit here in disgust, furious with our government and the man who unfortunately sits in the Oval Office, I find myself wondering if it does any good. Does it do any good to pray about this stuff? To stand up for our rights? Or is God just sitting idly by letting evil take over this country? But then my mind goes to one of my favorite Scripture passages, II Chronicles 7:14: if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

I think Christians need to band together and pray that somehow this travesty of a bill is somehow proven unconstitutional and thrown out.

Breakthrough to Clarity Bible Contest From Tyndale Publishing

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Awarded when the New Living Translation Fan Page hits the second milestone

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Retail Value: $599.00

Prize Eligibility – Recently updated to include more countries

Sweepstakes participants and winner(s) can be U.S. residents of the 50 United States, or residents of any country that is NOT embargoed by the United States, but cannot be residents of Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India. In addition, participants and winner(s) must be at least 18 years old, as determined by the Company.

Sweepstakes Starts
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April 30, 2010 @ 10:24 am (PDT)

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Choose one of six passages of Scripture from the New Living Translation and consider:

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Deliver Us From Evil by Robin Caroll

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!This was a new author for me, and I believe it is her first published book. I ran across it a while back and had it on my list of books I wanted to read, so I was delighted when it came up for review.

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

B&H Academic (February 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn of B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Robin Caroll has authored eight previous books including Bayou Justice and Melody of Murder. She gives back to the writing community as conference director for the American Christian Fiction Writers organization. A proud southerner through and through, Robin lives with her husband and three daughters in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Academic (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805449809
ISBN-13: 978-0805449808

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.
FBI Field Office
Knoxville, Tennessee

Jonathan’s throat closed as he stared at the building from the parking lot. He gripped the package tight in his arthritic hands. Could he do this? Turn over evidence that would implicate him?

His heart raced and he froze. Not the best time for his atrial fibrillation to make an appearance. Despite being on the heart transplant list for eight months, it looked like his progressed heart disease would do him in. The most important reason he couldn’t go to prison—he’d never get a heart and would die. While Carmen wanted him to confess his crimes, she wouldn’t want him to die. The memory of saying good-bye to his beloved mere hours ago scorched his soul.

Her eyes fluttered open. Those blue orbs, which had once sparkled even in the absence of light, now blinked flat and lifeless.

He swallowed hard.

“Jonathan,” her voice croaked, “it’s time.”

Tears burned the backs of his eyes, and he rested his hand over her parchmentlike skin. “No, Carmen. Please, let me get the medicine.”

Her eyelids drooped and she gasped. Air wheezed in her lungs. “Sweetheart, the fight’s . . . gone from me.” She let out a hiss, faint and eerie. “The cancer’s . . . won.”

Jonathan laid his lips against her cheek, her skin cold and clammy, as if in preparation for the morgue. How could she continue to refuse the medicine? Even though she didn’t approve of his means of acquisition, the drugs had kept her alive for five years. Five years he cherished every minute of. He’d do anything to keep her alive and the pain at bay—the intense pain that had become her constant companion these last two weeks. It killed him to witness her agony.

She licked her bottom lip, but no moisture soaked into the cracked flesh. “You’ve done . . . your best by me, Jonathan. I know . . . you meant . . . no harm to . . . anyone.” Her eyes lit as they once had. “Oh, how I’ve enjoyed loving you.”

His insides turned to oatmeal. Stubborn woman—she’d allow herself to die, all because she discovered how he’d gotten the money.

“Promise me . . . you’ll . . . tell the . . . truth. Admit what . . . you’ve done.” Her breath rattled. “What you’ve . . . all done.”

Pulling himself from the wretched memory, Jonathan breathed through the heat tightening his chest. He’d secure himself the best deal possible—immunity—or he wouldn’t decipher the papers. And without him no one could make sense of the accounting system he’d created more than five years ago. Officials hadn’t a clue.

With a deep breath he headed to the guardhouse in front of the fenced FBI building. His legs threatened to rebel, stiffening with every step. He forced himself to keep moving, one foot in front of the other.

At the guardhouse, a man behind bulletproof glass looked up. “May I help you?”

“I need to . . . see someone.”

“About what, sir?”

“I have some information regarding a crime.” He waved the file he held.

“One moment, sir, and someone will be with you.”

Jonathan stared at the cloudy sky. He could still turn back, get away scot-free. His heartbeat sped. The world blurred. No, he couldn’t lose consciousness now, nor could he go back on his promise. He owed it to Carmen. No matter what happened, he’d honor Carmen’s dying wish.

“Sir?” A young man in a suit stood beside the fenced entry, hand resting on the butt of his gun. “May I help you?”

Jonathan lifted the file. “I have some evidence regarding an ongoing crime ring.”

The agent motioned him toward a metal-detector arch. “Come through this way, sir.”

Jonathan’s steps wavered. He dragged his feet toward the archway.

A car door creaked. Jonathan glanced over his shoulder just as two men in full tactical gear stormed toward them. He had a split second to recognize one of the men’s eyes, just before gunfire erupted.

A vise gripped Jonathan’s heart, and he slumped to the dirty tile floor, the squeezing of his heart demanding his paralysis.

Too late. I’m sorry, Carmen.

Two Weeks Later—Wednesday, 3:45 p.m.
Golden Gloves Boxing of Knoxville

Ooof!

Brannon Callahan’s head jerked backward. She swiped her headgear with her glove.

“You aren’t concentrating on your form. You’re just trying to whale on me.” Steve Burroughs, her supervisor and sparring partner, bounced on the balls of his feet.

“Then why am I the one getting hit?” She threw a right jab that missed his jaw.

He brushed her off with his glove. “Don’t try to street fight me. Box.”

She clamped down on her mouthpiece and threw an uppercut with her left fist. It made contact, sending vibrations up her arm.

He wobbled backward, then got his balance. “Nice shot.”

It felt good to hit something. Hard. Sparring with Steve was the best form of venting. The energy had to be spent somehow—why not get a workout at the same time? She ducked a right cross, then followed through with a left-right combination. Both shots made full contact.

Steve spit out his mouthpiece and leaned against the ropes. “I think that’s enough for today, girl. I’m an old man, remember?”

She couldn’t fight the grin. Although only in his late forties, the chief ranger looked two decades older. With gray hair, hawk nose, and skin like tanned leather, Steve had already lived a lifetime.

She removed her mouthpiece, gloves, and headgear before sitting on the canvas. “Old? You’re still kickin’ me in the ring.”

He tossed her a towel and sat beside her. “So you wanna tell me what’s got you all hot and bothered this afternoon?”

She shrugged.

“Come on, spit it out. I know something’s gnawing at you, just like you were picking a fight with me in the ring. What’s up?”

How could she explain? “I’m not exactly keen that the district feels there’s a need for another pilot in the park.” She tightened the scrunchie keeping her hair out of her face.

“That’s a compliment—having you on staff has been so successful they want to expand.”

“But I have to train him. Did you notice his arrogance?” She ripped at the tape bound around her knuckles. “He’s nothing more than a young upstart with an ego bigger than the helicopter.” While only thirty-six, she often felt older than Steve looked.

“You’re so good, you can come across a bit intimidating at first, girl.” Steve grabbed the ropes and pulled to standing, then offered her a hand. “Give him a chance.”

She let Steve tug her up. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even if he had maturity, I still have to train him. With all the rescues we’ve been called out on of late . . . well, I really don’t have the time.” She exited the ring. “Like those kids yesterday.” She shook her head as she waited for Steve to join her on the gym floor. “Their stupidity almost cost them their lives.”

“They were young, Brannon.”

“Please. Any amateur with half a brain should know better than to try to climb Clingmans Dome in winter.” Didn’t people realize if something happened to them they’d leave behind devastated family and friends? Loved ones who would mourn them forever? She fought against the familiar pain every time she participated in a search and rescue. All because people hadn’t taken necessary precautions.

“They didn’t know any better.”

“It takes a special kind of stupid not to have researched your climb.” Most SARs could be avoided if people planned a little more. It ripped her apart that so many parents, grandparents, siblings . . . fiancĂ©es . . . survived to deal with such grief. She’d tasted the bitterness of grief—twice—and the aftertaste still lingered.

Steve paused outside the locker rooms and shifted his sparring gear to one hand. “I agree, but most people don’t see the dangers we do every day.” He tapped her shoulder. “Hit the showers, champ. You stink.”

She laughed as she headed into the ladies’ locker room. Maybe Steve was right and the new pilot just made a lousy first impression. Maybe he’d be easy to train.

Please, God, let it be so.

Friday, 2:15 p.m.
US Marshals Office, Howard Baker Federal Courthouse
Knoxville, Tennessee

“You want me to escort a heart?” Roark struggled to keep his voice calm. He tapped the butt of his Beretta, welcoming it back to its rightful place on his hip.

Senior US Marshal Gerald Demott glared. “Look, I know you think this is a slight, but it’s important. And for your first assignment back on the job . . .”

“IA cleared me of all wrongdoing. I’m seeing the shrink and everything.” He gritted his teeth and exhaled. “I’ve been released to return to active duty.”

“This is active. It’s a field assignment, and it’s important. Here’s the case information.” Demott passed him a folder, then glanced at his watch. “You’d better hurry or you’ll miss your flight.”

Roark grabbed the file and turned to go.

“Holland.”

He looked back at his boss. “Yeah?”

Demott held out Roark’s badge. “You might want to take this with you, too.”

Roark accepted the metal emblem, then clipped it to his belt before marching out of Demott’s office. A heart. His job was to escort a human heart from North Carolina to Knoxville. Any rookie could handle that. But no, they still didn’t trust him enough to handle a real assignment.

He’d done everything they asked—took a medical leave of absence while Internal Affairs went over every painful minute
of his failed mission, saw the shrink they demanded he speak to every week since Mindy’s death, answered their relentless questions. The shrink reiterated he’d been forgiven for acting on his own.

Maybe one day he’d forgive himself. How many innocent lives would he have to save for his conscience to leave him be?

Roark slipped into the car, then headed to the airport. But to be assigned a heart transport? Not only was it wrong, it was downright insulting. After almost fifteen years as a marshal, he’d earned the benefit of the doubt from his supervisors. Especially Demott. His boss should know him better, know he’d only disregard orders if it was a matter of life and death.

But Mindy Pugsley died. They’d all died.

He pushed the nagging voice from his mind. Even Dr. Martin had advised him not to dwell on the past. On what had gone wrong. On disobeying a direct order.

If only Mindy didn’t haunt his dreams.

Roark touched the angry scar that ran along his right cheekbone to his chin. A constant reminder that he’d failed, that he’d made a mistake that took someone’s life. He’d have to live with the pain for the rest of his life.

He skidded the car into the airport’s short-term parking lot. After securing the car and gathering the case folder, Roark grabbed his coat. Snowflakes pelted downward, swirling on the bursts of wind and settling on the concrete. The purple hues of the setting sun streaked across the mountain peaks beyond the runways, making the January snow grab the last hope of light.

Yes, he’d handle this mundane assignment, then tell Demott he wanted back on real active duty. Making a difference would be the best thing for him. Would make him feel whole again.



This is a supense book, which is my favorite genre' of Christian fiction, and the author put out a great suspense novel. Though the story is fictional, she addresses the issue of  child trafficking, which is not fictional.

I enjoyed the plot, the setting, and the characters. There was a lot of action, with killers chasing the good guys. And this author proved that you can write a great suspense novel and make it a Christian book through and through. I sat in my reading chair, and was pulled into the story, and could not put it down until I finished it. This book comes highly recommended, as does the author. I am looking forward to more from her in this series.

Thanks to Broadman & Holman Publishing for the review copy.

Deliver Us From Evil is availble from Broadman & Holman Publishing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Getting Taken Down a Peg

Sometimes in life stuff happens to take us down a peg, whether we needed it or not. You know what I'm talking about - public humiliation. Thought I'd share my most recent one in case anyone needs to smile......

My church had special revival services this week. After church on Saturday evening, a couple from church, the Quessenberrys, asked my parents and I, and my sister, brother-in-law and nieces to meet them at the Baskin Robbins/Dunkin Donuts place in town. Then, the speaker of our revivial, asked my sis and her family to meet them at McDonalds for ice cream, so my sis asked them to Baskin Robbins also.

We go in and are looking at the ice cream, trying to make choices. I decided to wash my hands quick, so I entered the restroom. I heard my brother-in-law call my name, but figured it could wait. I should have listened. I exited to find several amused people looking at me. I had used the women's restroom, not the men's. Sigh.

One of my nieces came over later to my table to rub it in. She loudly announced "Uncle Mark, I didn't use the men's restroom." I laughed and said "neither did I."

One time would be bad enough, but dare I confess that this is the fourth time I did this? And I thought I had kicked the habit. :-) - I did it 3 times within a few months about 5 years ago or so. So here the lesson gets drilled into me again - pay attention to the signs on the bathroom doors!

I went home a bit embarrassed, but having given everyone a laugh. I have to admit though, I'd rather tell a good joke than to be one. :-)

Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs, and a giveaway

This blog tour is for Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs.

Book description: A mother who cannot face her future.



A daughter who cannot escape her past.

Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a keeper of secrets. A Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage, she honors the auld ways, even as doubts and fears stir deep within her.



Her husband, Lord Donald, has secrets of his own, well hidden from the household, yet whispered among the town gossips.


His mother, the dowager Lady Marjory, hides gold beneath her floor and guilt inside her heart. Though her two abiding passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, Marjory’s many regrets, buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, continue to plague her.


One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface, even as bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745, intent on capturing the crown.


A timeless story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland , Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope, the brightest of tapers, lights the way home.
 
My thoughts:
 
I'm not too much for books set in a Scottish setting - not sure why, but this book was advertised as a modern retelling of the story of Ruth from the Bible, which caught my attention, so I asked to review it, and did enjoy it. 
 
Though there are a lot of differences in the Biblical story and this, the author does a good job of using a lot of similarities, and I actually found the Scottish history and goings on rather interesting. (I guess what I don't like about books set in a Scottish setting is the way they talk).
 
If you enjoy books set in Scotland, you will enjoy this book, and even if you don't, you still may enjoy this retelling of the story of Ruth.
 
About the author:
 
LIZ CURTIS HIGGS is the author of twenty-seven books with three million copies in print, including: her best-selling historical novels, Thorn in My Heart, Fair Is the Rose, Christy Award-winner Whence Came a Prince, and Grace in Thine Eyes, a Christy Award finalist; My Heart’s in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny Scotland, an armchair travel guide to Galloway; and her contemporary novels, Mixed Signals, a Rita Award finalist, and Bookends, a Christy Award finalist. Visit the author’s extensive website at http://www.lizcurtishiggs.com/.
 
The giveaway:
 
Open to US entries only. To enter, comment and tell what Biblical character you enjoy reading about the most - outside of Jesus, of course. :-)
 
I will pick a winner on April 1, no fooling......
 
Thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for the review copy.
 
Here Burns My Candle is available from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishing.

Heart of Stone by Jill Marie Landis


This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



Heart Of Stone
Zondervan (March 1, 2010)



by



Jill Marie Landis






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jill Marie Landis is the bestselling author of over twenty novels. She has won numerous awards for her sweeping emotional romances, such as Summer Moon and Magnolia Creek. In recent years, as market demands turned to tales of vampires, erotica, and hotter, sexier historical romances, Jill turned to writing Inspirational Western Romances for Steeple Hill Books. She truly feels back in the saddle again, working on stories that are a joy to write. With her toes in the sand and head in the clouds, Jill now lives in Hawaii with her husband, Steve.











ABOUT THE BOOK

Laura Foster, free from the bondage of an unspeakable childhood has struggled to make a new life for herself. Now the owner of an elegant boardinghouse in Glory, Texas, she is known as a wealthy, respectable widow. But Laura never forgets that she is always just one step ahead of her past.



When Reverend Brand McCormick comes calling, Laura does all she can to discourage him as a suitor. She knows that if her past were discovered, Brand’s reputation would be ruined. But it’d not only Laura’s past that threatens to bring Brand down─it’s also his own.



When a stranger in town threatens to reveal too many secrets, Laura is faced with a heartbreaking choice: Should she leave Glory forever and save Brand’s future? Or is it worth risking his name─and her heart─by telling him the truth?



If you would like to read the first chapter of Heart Of Stone, go HERE

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos

Book description:

Imaginary Jesus is an hilarious, fast-paced, not-quite-fictional story that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before. When Matt Mikalatos realizes that his longtime buddy in the robe and sandals isn’t the real Jesus at all, but an imaginary one, he embarks on a mission to find the real thing. On his wild ride through time, space, and Portland, Oregon, he encounters hundreds of other Imaginary Jesuses determined to stand in his way (like Legalistic Jesus, Perpetually Angry Jesus, and Magic 8 Ball Jesus). But Matt won’t stop until he finds the real Jesus—and finally gets an answer to the question that’s haunted him for years. Be warned: Imaginary Jesus may bring you face-to-face with an imposter in your own life.

This was a unique book to read. Told from the first point of view by the author, it is touted as "a not-quite-true story." The story is fiction, and the author has quite an imagination, but by weaving a humorous and at times rather bizarre story, he tackles the issue of people having the wrong view of Jesus, and our making our own version of Jesus to follow and serve.

The book starts out with the author hanging with his own version of Jesus, Imaginary Jesus. He then goes on to meet several other Jesuses. The ones listed above in the book description and others such as King James Jesus, TV Jesus, Testoserone Jesus, and more. Though they may act in some bizarre ways and have amusing names, the author does a great job of showing how easy it is to focus on the wrong things in serving Jesus, and ultimately making our own Jesus to serve, whether it be a legalistic Savior, or one who grants our every wish.

I had two issues with the book: one use of a curse word, the "d-word", being used by none other than the Apostle Peter - and a lot of wine consumption by the same person. Other than that, I think this is an excellent book that can cause the reader to examine his own life to see which Jesus he or her is following.

About the author:

Matt Mikalatos received his BA in writing from the University of California Riverside. Like many future world leaders, he began his career as a clerk at a comic book store. Having discovered that such work caused women to shun him, Matt took control of a high school classroom and taught American literature and drama (although he was best known for his riotous "study halls"). Then Matt, in an unexpected move, joined Campus Crusade for Christ. In a moment of weakness, his best friend Krista agreed to marry him. He and Krista were briefly expatriated by Crusade to East Asia, where they ministered for three years. Now back in the States, Matt provides leadership to the international ministries of Crusade's northwest region. Matt has published articles in Discipleship Journal, The Wittenburg Door, Relief, and Coach's Midnight Diner. Matt and his wife live near Portland, Oregon. They have three beautiful daughters.

Imaginary Jesus is available from Barna Publishing, an imprint of Tyndale Publishing.

Thanks to Tyndale Publishing for the review copy.

Karen Kingsbury book

I ran across a list of Zondervan fiction titles releasing late in 2010, and thought this Karen Kingsbury book sounded good, so I am passing the info on. Note: It will not be out until December, so this is just a sneak peek. The book is titled Unlocked:


Holden Harris, 18, is locked in a prison of autism where he's been since he was a happy, boisterous three-year-old. At school he is bullied by kids who do not understand that despite his quiet ways and quirky behaviors, Holden is very happy and socially normal on the inside, where he lives in a private world all his own. Then one day the head cheerleader and star of the high school drama production is rehearsing when Holden stops and listens, clearly drawn to the music. Lauren Reynolds notices and takes an interest in him, learning about autism and eventually helping Holden win a spot in the school play. At the same time Lauren makes a dramatic discovery. Long ago, her parents and Holden's parents were good friends, and she and Holden played together until his diagnosis of autism, at which time Lauren's mother distanced herself from the friendship. Now Lauren's mom and her MLB baseball player are father are trapped in an unhappy marriage and a life that is shallow and meaningless. Not until a tragedy takes place at the high school does Lauren take a public stand against the way the more popular privileged kids treat those who are different. At the same time, Lauren continues to be a friend to Holden and in time their mothers realize that something special is happening. Hurts from the past are dealt with and all around Holden miracles begin to happen in various relationships. The greatest miracle is the change in Holden, himself, and everyone is stunned by the transformation they witness. Ultimately, the community comes to understand that many people walk around in a personal prison and that only by love and faith can the doors become unlocked, the way they dramatically do for Holden Harris.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An Easter Song....... In more than one way

One of my favorite groups, Jeff & Sheri Easter, recorded this song way back in about 1991. The whole song isn't quite an Easter message, but the last verse is, so I always listen to it more at this time of year, and since it is sung by the Easters, it is an Easter song in more than one way. :-)

Roses Will Bloom Again, by Marcia Henry

Verse 1


I planted a little rose bush,
And tended it with care,
It’s buds began to blossom
Their fragrance filled the air
But when winter came it withered,
The petals drooped and fell to the ground,
My heart sank as it faded,
But I’d forgotten who had made it.

CHORUS

Roses will bloom again,
Just wait and see
Don’t mourn what might have been
Only God knows how and when that
Roses will bloom again.

VERSE 2

Rose was his only sweetheart,
A loving wife for forty years.
He cherished every day they had,
And held the memories dear
He never dreamed he’d bury love
And go to live alone,
But as he laid his Rose to rest,
He looked up to heaven and tried his best
To believe that

CHORUS
Roses will bloom again,

Just wait and see
Don’t mourn what might have been
Only God knows how and when that
Roses will bloom again.

VERSE 3

The precious Rose of Sharon,
Broken and bruised in cruel shame,
Stained the cross of Calvary,
So that men might be saved,
Satan cheered as He died,
While Mary and the others cried,
Then God raised Him up from death's sleep
And kept a promise on He could keep.

CHORUS

Roses will bloom again,

Just wait and see
Don’t mourn what might have been
Only God knows how and when that
Roses will bloom again.

Songbird Under a German Moon by Tricia Goyer

Book description:
The year is 1945. The war is over and 21-year-old Betty Lake has been invited to Europe to sing in a USO tour for American soldiers who now occupy Hitler's Germany. The first nights performance is a hit. Betty becomes enthralled with the applause, the former Nazi-held mansion they're housed in and the attention of Frank Witt, the US Army Signal Corp Photographer. Yet the next night this songbird is ready to fly the coop when Betty's dear friend, Kat, turns up missing. Betty soon realizes Franks photographs could be the key to finding Kat. Betty and Frank team up against post-war Nazi influences and the two lovebirds' hearts may find the answers...in each other.



But will they have a chance for their romance to sing? The truth will be revealed under a German moon.

This was an enjoyable read. In addition to being a good story line and likable characters, the author gives an interesting look at what life was probably like in post-World War II Germany, something I had never really thought about, and most of the focus is on the American soldiers stationed there after the war and what it might have been like for them.
 
I enjoy reading books set during times of war, and though this one was set after a war, it still captured my attention. There is suspense, mystery, and even romance. The ending wasn't too much of a surprise, as I had more or less figured a couple of things out, but the book was not a disappointment, and although I enjoyed the book she wrote with Mike Yorkey more, The Swiss Courier,  I would recommend this one to historical fiction lovers also.
 
About the author:
 
Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana. Find out more about her and her books at http://www.triciagoyer.com/


Songbird Under A German Moon is avaiable from Summerside Press.
Thanks to Summerside Press for the review copy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Rewards of Simplicity by Pam & Chuck Pierce

Book description:
In today's fast-paced and technology-driven times, Christians feel stressed out and overly busy. Many are left longing for simpler days, unaware that these days are within their grasp, made possible by getting rid of spiritual and material clutter.



Respected prophetic leader Chuck D. Pierce and his wife, Pam, remind Christians of the rewards of living simply. Together they weave biblical teaching with practical tips that will help readers answer questions like these:


How can I...
• clear out unnecessary clutter in my home?
• overcome anxiety?
• rely on God for my sustenance?
• get free from too much technology and/or entertainment?
• preserve a Sabbath rest?
• free myself from the stronghold of materialism?


Sharing their insights to help readers break free of anything that enslaves them, Pam and Chuck empower Christians, both materially and spiritually, to live a clutter-free life.

This is a great book, and more than just a book, a helpful tool. The authors have some great ideas of how to simply our lives, from clutter in the house, to managing our time more efficiently. The book is written in an interesting and easy-to-read fashion, and I found several helpful tips in the book - if I actually do them. :-)

If you're wanting to simplify your life and don't know where to begin, check out this book. You might find some helpful advice withing its pages.

About the authors:

Pam and Chuck D. Pierce are ordained ministers and have been married for 36 years. Chuck serves as president of Glory of Zion International Ministries in Denton, Texas, and vice president of Global Harvest Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He coordinates prayer for many major gatherings around the world and has authored and coauthored many books. Pam has ministered within the Body of Christ much of her adult life. She homeschooled their five children and is currently a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher. She maintains the lively Pierce household, which includes four dogs, a cat, two birds, and a lizard.

The Rewards of Simplicity is available from Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Baker for the review copy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Right Call by Kathy Herman

Book description: It’s summer in Sophie Trace, the setting of Kathy Herman’s latest page turner, The Right Call. Based on 2 Peter 2:19b: “For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him,” The Right Call demonstrates how we’re all slaves to something—either to God and righteousness or to the flesh and its pitfalls.



Ethan Langley is home from college for the summer, eager to renew his friendship with Vanessa Jessup (Police Chief Brill Jessup’s daughter) and her infant son, Carter. Before Ethan is even settled his world is rocked by a random shooting that leaves four people dead, including someone close to him. Ethan tries to deal with his grief by staying busy and concentrating on his growing love for Vanessa. When a coworker from the previous summer, Stedman Reeves, seems somewhat obsessed with the shooting—but also sympathetic to Ethan’s deep loss—the two seem to connect.


While Chief Jessup is scrambling to find a suspect in the shootings, Ethan gets a late-night call from Stedman, who sounds panicked and needs to see him right away. Stedman confesses shocking details: due to a series of bad choices, he is going to be framed for the murders. All the evidence points to Stedman’s guilt, and he knows that there is no way he can prove his innocence. Stedman implores Ethan to go to Vanessa’s mother with this information.


When the wrong people find out that Ethan knows too much, those around him are placed in danger. What should he do? Going to Chief Jessup with the truth could save Stedman from doing life in prison—but it could be a death sentence for and Vanessa and Carter. He’s been dealt an impossible hand, but it’s his move. Will he make the right call?


Best-selling suspense novelist Kathy Herman brings this vivid story to life in her new book, The Right Call, the third book in the acclaimed Sophie Trace Trilogy. Filled with heart-pounding suspense that delivers heart-changing truth, The Right Call uses the perilous story of a young college student to reinforce the importance of walking closely with God, to be armed with wisdom and strength in order to face the toughest of circumstances.

My thoughts:

Kathy Herman has become of my favorite authors. She writes a great suspense/mystery, has great characters, and her books are unabashedly Christian. No worries about running onto a curse word or other objectional content in her books.

The Right Call is the third and last book in the Sophie Trace Trilogy, and Kathy wound up the series in an awesome and cimatic way. This book focuses on Ethan Langley, who made an appearance in the last book, and was looking like a possible romantic interest for the police chief's daughter. He ends up getting himself in a pretty tight situation, and I admit was a bit worried about the outcome.

Kathy often addresses some issue along with writing a great suspense novel, and in this one, she tackles addictions, and shows what they can lead to.

I really enjoyed The Right Call, and the other two books in the series. I fell in love with the characters in the book, and was sad to see the series end, although it looks like a couple of them may be in her next series, which will be set in Cajun country.

If you enjoy a good suspense novel, I would recommend Kathy Herman, and this series would be a great place to start. They do go in order, so get book one first, The Real Enemy, and then the second, The Last Word, before reading this one. You will not be disappointed.

About the author:

Kathy Herman is a best-selling suspense novelist who has written fifteen novels since retiring from her family’s Christian bookstore business. Kathy and her husband, Paul, have three grown children and five grandchildren and live in Tyler, Texas. This is the third title in the Sophie Trace trilogy, which also includes The Real Enemy, and The Last Word.

The Right Call is available from David C Cook Publishing.

Thanks to B & B Media Group for the review copy.

Brilliant Disguises by William Thornton

Book description:
Cameron Leon is a newly-hired worker for the Forster Foundation, a world-wide charitable organization led by a reclusive billionaire. To get the job, Cameron has to join a church. However, Cameron, still mourning the recent death of his brother Peter, decides he will only pretend to “get saved.” In the process, he impersonates not only a Christian, but on occasion his brother. Cameron continues to receive tearful phone calls from Peter’s widow, Cecelia, who wants to hear her late husband’s voice. Cameron, a born mimic like his brother, flawlessly impersonates him but feels the need for a personal kind of cleansing. In the end, Cameron discovers not only how many faces he has, but how many there are among the people around him. In the end, he finds he has been impersonating someone - or Someone - all along.

I blogged a couple of times in recent weeks about wearings masks in church, so when I got an email from the author of this book asking me to review it, the book intrigued me since my mind was still on wearings masks.

This book was an interesting and enjoyable read. Told in first person from the viewpoint of Cameron, who pretends to be a Christian to get and keep his job. It is amusing at times, and yet makes a person think. The author also looks at some of the things in Christians such as "catch phrases" and ways of praying that was rather entertaining. And although an enjoyable read, it is convicting also - how often do we as Christians maybe not necessarily pretend to be a Christian while not being one, but pretend everything is ok while it isn't. Especially for we who grew up in the church, it is all too easy to go through the motions and fool everyone, as Cameron did in this book.

The main character was an interesting person and likable. There is a lot of internal conflict that goes on in him as he realizes more and more that what he is doing is wrong, yet he is afraid to admit the truth. In addition to pretending he is a Christian, he has a bizarre thing going on with his brother's widow, where she has him pretend to be his brother, showing all the more how easy it is to pretend to be what we are not.

I will admit I was a bit leery of reviewing this book. It is self-published, and I knew nothing about the author, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It was an inspiring book with a great message, clean of improper content or language. I am not a big fan of books written from the first person point of view, but for this one, I think that was the best choice, and the best way to tell the story of Cameron, a man pretending to be something he wasn't. This is a book I recommend reading. I believe it is the author's first book, and he did a great job on it.

About the author:

William Thornton is an award-winning writer who has been a newspaper reporter for the past 21 years. He teaches a Sunday School class and is a deacon in a Southern Baptist church. He also maintains a blog on Christian themes in religious fiction, non-fiction and popular culture. He lives in Alabama with his wife and daughter.


Q&A with the author, taken from his website, http://www.brilliantdisguises.com/:

Q: How did the idea behind this book come about?

A: Several things inspired me. One was how, at times in church, you’ll find a person who comes forward to make a profession of faith who has been a fixture there for years, sometimes decades. They may be the Sunday School superintendent, or the lady who works in the kitchen for meals, or a volunteer in the nursery who never misses a Sunday. Everyone in the church knows them and looks up to them, yet they make that walk down the aisle and say they’ve never felt like they were saved. They may very well be a Christian, but doubts are eating away at them. I was interested in how that could happen.

Q: But Cameron, the narrator of this book, says clearly that he isn’t a Christian.

A: No, and that’s what made it interesting for me. Another inspiration was those cases you’ll sometimes read about where someone is sued over a morals clause in their employment contract, in which they failed to live the kind of life the company requires. I was interested in somebody who is compelled to do a “good job,” but by doing so, gets his life misinterpreted by the people around him who think it’s his genuine lifestyle. That allows you to see Cameron as an insider who’s really on the outside.

Q: Mimicry gets talked about a lot.

A: That was necessary, because for Cameron to do the job well - to be convincing - he’s got to be a mimic. And when you encounter someone who can do an impersonation of someone’s voice or mannerisms, there’s always a certain kind of magic about it. You wonder how they’re able to do it, and what it would be like to have that ability. I took the inspiration for that from my brother, who seems to be able to do those kinds of things without even practicing, which is just appalling to me. (laughs)

Q: Evolution gets talked about too. Are you trying to get people to reassess their concept of evolution?

A: Not at all. That was a storytelling choice. Cameron is telling the story, and he espouses a rational/scientific view of things at the beginning. But mimicry in nature is part of evolutionary theory, and strangely enough, it’s also part of Christianity. We are compelled to live like Christ, to reflect His life, His teachings, His compassion, His sacrifice, and His resurrection. It’s not a parlor trick though, but necessary for survival. You might say we’re supposed to evolve into what He wants us to be.

Q: What works inspired you to write this book?

A: Several books, among them - “The Double” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “The Human Stain” by Philip Roth and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” All of them are in some way wrapped up in this idea of identity.

Q: How did they influence you?

A: Besides the subject matter, they helped with the style of the book. I wanted to write a book about the interior life of someone going through the transforming work that is necessary for salvation. That’s usually handled in the context of non-fiction for Christian publications. Since I’m writing fiction, one of my models was the way Jewish writers craft their fiction around what it’s like to be Jewish and part of American culture. I’m talking about writers like Philip Roth, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Safran Foer. The Christian experience in America is as much cultural as spiritual. God finds you wherever you are, but the place that you come from has a lot to say about who you are, or who you think you are.


Brilliant Disguises is available from Xlibris Publishing, and also on Amazon.com. Thanks to the author for the review copy.

First chapter available here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From Layoff to First Novel Contract - guest post by Adam Blumer

Note: I asked Adam Blumer to do a guest post, and he graciously agreed, and is also giving away a copy of his Christian suspense novel, Fatal Illusions, one of the best Christian suspense novels I have ever read. Thanks Adam for the post.
My Unconventional Path to Publication

My boss sank into a chair across from my desk, hung his head, and delivered news no employee wants to hear. "We're making cutbacks here at the college, and I'm afraid"—he took a deep breath and let it out—"your position is being eliminated."

A two-by-four to the side of the head couldn't have jolted me more. What!? They're cutting my job?

It was January 13, 2006, and I was sitting in my office (see photo) at Northland Baptist Bible College (it's now a university), where I'd been serving as an editor since 1995. With a BA in print journalism, I was in charge of editing and writing content for all sorts of campus publications: promotional brochures, a magazine, the academic catalog, the yearbook, even the Web site. And now, in five months, I'd no longer have a job. My stomach churned at this news. How was I going to provide for my wife and kids?

Quietly Working

There's no way to put a happy face on this period of my life. This was a sobering, discouraging time for me and my family, and I'd be a liar if I said I didn't struggle in my spirit about the whole situation. But God had hard lessons for me to learn about depending on Him, and He was quietly working behind the scenes (as He often does) to bring to fruition a dream I'd had since I was a kid.

I'd been writing all sorts of wild tales since I was a child: short stories about pirates and space ships in junior high, a novel-length Agatha Christie copycat in high school, and a science fiction novel I finished the summer after my senior year in college. From there, I published my first short story in the Regular Baptist Press Sunday school papers. I remember my excitement when the check arrived in the mail. I'd published numerous news stories during my journalism internship at a newspaper in the South, but now I was a published fiction author! Being rewarded for my hard work only revved my engine to publish a variety of more short stories and articles.

But it wasn't enough. I'd always wanted to write Christian novels, so I wrote three of them for young adults. The problem was, I couldn't find any publishers who wanted them. So what did I do? Even if nobody publishes them, I decided, I'll just keep writing them because I can't help myself. I also felt like each novel was just a little better than the one preceding it. Maybe if I just kept writing long and hard enough . . .

Last-Ditch Effort

Somewhere along the way, a considerate editor wrote on one of my many rejection letters, "Have you considered writing for adults?" I thought, Why not? But by this time, I was beginning to wonder if I was barking up the wrong tree. Maybe I didn't have what it takes to be a published Christian novelist. Maybe all those childhood dreams had been for naught. But then I thought, God must have given me the desire to write novels for a reason.

In a last-ditch effort, I decided that I needed to take my writing to the next level by finding a writing mentor. In 2002 I enrolled in a novel writing correspondence course through Writer's Digest School. Writer's Digest matched me up with another Christian author, a published novelist of romantic suspense, Bea Carlton. This was exactly what I needed—an industry professional to read my chapters and tell me, "This is really good. It's not a question of if you'll be a published but when." Bea was my cheerleader who gave me the advice to grow and the confidence to keep going. She coached me through the plot outline, the development of my main characters, and the first fifty pages of a Christian suspense novel I was calling Now You See Him. But when the course was over, I didn't stop. Four years and two daughters later, I finally finished the manuscript. Maybe I wasn't the fastest novelist in the world, but at least I'd finished what I set out to do.

Chucking the Dream?

But then the same old problem was back: I was mailing out query letters and novel proposals left and right, only to receive rejection letters in response. If you've been on this journey, then you understand the depressing sense of failure that comes when you've poured literally thousands of hours into a project, only to realize nobody likes it. At this point, I was seriously thinking about chucking the dream. No matter how hard I worked, I told myself, I was never going to be good enough. Success only happened to other people. I asked God, Why did You give me this drive to write novels if You didn't intend for me ever to publish them?

Then in January 2006, only a few days before my layoff news, a two-page letter in the mail changed everything. That previous fall, I'd mailed a query letter to Steve Laube, a Christian literary agent in Arizona, about Now You See Him. Amazingly, he'd replied with interest and wanted to see the full manuscript. Now, reading what he thought of my novel, my heart sank. As expected, Mr. Laube was declining to be my agent. But then I sat up straighter. This was far from the standard rejection letter. He said that only a tiny percent of submissions get as far as mine did. He said I was very close to having a publishable manuscript, and he listed several areas of my story that he felt needed improvement. Oh wow! So if I made the changes, maybe somebody would like my novel after all. I suddenly realized I was close—very close—and began making the changes Mr. Laube had recommended.

No Serious Expectations

But then, just a few days later, I was walloped across the side of the head by the news that I was losing my job, and I had no idea what I was going to do. But by the time my job ended at the university, I had begun editing for several clients from home. Yes, I needed to work as an early-morning FedEx package handler for a while to pay the bills, but God was providing for my family. Maybe this work-at-home editing opportunity would pan out if I built up my client base. Maybe so, but the time demand to work FedEx, to literally build a home office into my house, and to find more clients required me to lay aside the oh-so-close-to-publication novel for a while. I accepted the fact that providing for my family had to come first.

Fast-forward to the spring of 2007. While contacting various Christian publishers and inquiring about book projects I could edit from home, I e-mailed an editor at Kregel Publications. When the editor saw on my resume that I'd written several as-yet-unpublished novel manuscripts, he asked me to submit one for review. With no serious expectations (after all, I'd done this song and dance a few times before), I sent him Now You See Him.

You guessed it. A few months later, the editor at Kregel e-mailed me, requesting the full manuscript. By August, after sitting on pins and needles for what seemed like an eternity, I received the astonishing news that Kregel was going to publish my novel! I ran to my wife with the news, and we jumped up and down and hugged each other.

The Rest of the Story

I couldn't believe what was happening. I was 38, and my childhood dream was finally coming true after what had seemed like a very long journey. (Better late than never, right?) But it had been no easy or conventional path. I believe that it was only after I set my dream aside to provide for my family that God decided to make it come true. Perhaps He wanted to see if I was willing to turn my back on my childhood dream and find my fulfillment in Him alone.

So now you know the story behind the publication of my first Christian suspense novel, Fatal Illusions (Kregel Publications, March 2009). Though I've always loved to write stories (and am busy on another novel now), I seriously doubted that I'd ever write a novel good enough to be published. That's why when others ask me about my publication success, I'm careful to give God the glory. After all, He opened publication doors I couldn't open for myself.

A Word to Writers

Maybe my journey sounds similar to yours. Maybe you've been writing for years and seeing little success as the result of your efforts. Maybe you're even ready to chuck the dream like I almost did.

My advice? Don't.

The best advice I can give anyone is "Don't ever give up!" Even if the constant rejection makes you feel like a bug stuck to the rug, never, ever stop writing. If God gave you the desire and aptitude to write, He's given you a gift He doesn't want to see go to waste. Write as often and as passionately as you can, but be willing to set aside the dream. Make God your dream and seek Him first (Matt. 6:33). Then, if He wants to publish your novel, He'll open the door. Maybe not according to your timetable. But definitely according to His.

Book Giveaway

I'm giving away one copy of Fatal Illusions (only within the United States and Canada). To participate, comment on my article and list a major disappointment God used in your life to turn things around for His glory. For more information about Fatal Illusions, visit my Web site and blog. For more writing advice, check out my FAQ. Thanks, Mark, for the opportunity to share my heart.

A winner will be drawn 10 days from today, on March 26.

Dead Reckoning by Ronie Kendig

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Abingdon Press (March 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Camy Tang and Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ronie Kendig has a BS in Psychology and is a wife, mother of four, and avid writer. In addition to speaking engagements, Ronie volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers and contributes monthly to the highly acclaimed Novel Journey blog, and is a columnist for the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. Her espionage thriller, Dead Reckoning, releases March 01, 2010 through Abingdon Press and the first in a military thriller series, Nightshade, will release July 2010 from Barbour Publishing. Ronie can be found online at or at Facebook.

Visit the author's website.
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Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 142670058X
ISBN-13: 978-1426700583

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Mumbai Harbor, India

Shafts of yellow light pierced the blue-green waters, silhouetting the dive rig that hovered on the surface of the Arabian Sea. Shiloh Blake stopped and watched a wrasse scuttle past, its tiny fins working hard to ferry the brightly striped fish to safety.

Clad in her wetsuit, Shiloh squinted through her goggles and tucked the underwater camera into her leg pocket. Gripping a small stone artifact in her gloved hand, she propelled herself toward the surface. Ten meters and she would reveal her historic discovery to long-time rival Mikhail Drovosky.

Shiloh smiled. The guy would go ballistic. Score one for the girls. Between her and her new dive partner Edie Valliant, they had surged ahead in finds. Not that this was a competition. Not technically. But everyone with the University of California-San Diego dig team knew it was make or break time.

Shiloh broke the surface. As the warm sun bathed her face, she slid off her mask and tugged out her air regulator before hauling herself onto the iron dive flat. She squeezed the saltwater from her hair, the auburn glints catching in the sunlight. Her long auburn hair glowed in the sunlight.

“What did you find?” Khalid Khan knelt next to her.

With a smirk, she peeked at her best friend. Her own excitement was mirrored in his dark eyes. Then she noticed Edie’s absence.

“Where’d she go this time? And Dr. Kuntz?”

“She wasn’t feeling well.”

“More like she had another date.” Irritation seeped through her pores like the hot sun, boiling her to frustration. She couldn’t believe her dive partner kept cutting digs to flirt with locals.

Khalid reached over to remove her dive tanks.

With a hand held up, she shifted away. “No, I’m going back down.”

Footsteps thudded on the deck. “It’s my turn.” Mikhail’s glower fanned her competitive streak.

“Sorry.” Shiloh grinned. “Not for another ten minutes. You’re not going to stop me from qualifying for the Pacific Rim Challenge.” She nearly sighed, thinking about racking up enough dive hours for the deep-sea assignment—her dream.

On his haunches, Khalid swiveled toward her, cutting off her view of Mikhail. “What’d you find?” he whispered. Damp from his last dive, Khalid’s jet black hair hung into his face. “Please tell me you aren’t playing games.”

From a pouch hanging at her waist, she produced the lamp. “This for starters.”

He took the piece and traced the contours. “Soapstone.” His gaze darted back to hers. “You mapped it on the grid, right? And photographed it?”

Any first-year grad student would know to take a picture to verify its location and record it on the mapped grid of the site. “Of course.” She patted the camera in the pouch.

Not so many years ago a sunken city had been found in the area. Would she find another? Her heart thumped at the prospect. Tools. She would need better tools to safely remove the vase waiting at the bottom of the sea. Shiloh stood and hurried to the chest to remove an air pipe to suction the silt and sediment away and grabbed an airlift bag. As she plotted how to excavate the piece, she tucked the tools into holsters strapped around her legs and waist.

“I’m coming down there whether you’re done or not.” Mikhail bumped his shoulder against hers and pursed his lips. “If you find it in my time, I get to log it.”

Eyebrow quirked, she swept around him to the stern and sat on the ledge.

“I mean it, Blake!” Mikhail’s face reddened.

She slipped the regulator back in her mouth, nearly smiling. With a thumbs-up to Khalid, she nudged herself into the water. Glee rippled through her. The look of incredulity on Mikhail’s mug buoyed her spirits. Finding the lamp had been exhilarating, but one-upmanship had its own thrill. Besides, how many divers worked this dig in the last year? Like them, she found a piece of history. Divers and researchers had scoured this area and other sites along the coast of India.

Dr. Kuntz would have insisted on diving with her if not for ferrying Edie around Mumbai. Irritation at her new dive partner swelled. Why they had ever agreed to take on that useless woman, she’d never know. How could partying compare with the discovery of the past?

Although the silt and sand shrouded the lip of the vase, Shiloh spotted its outline easily where she had marked the place with a flag. She lifted the red vinyl square from the sandy floor and worked quickly, refusing to relinquish this relic to the overblown ego of Mikhail Drovosky. He’d beaten her out of top honors for her bachelor’s degree, relegating her to magna cum laude, lessening her scholarship. Enough was enough.

Why hadn’t anyone else found this vase? As she brushed away the sediment, confusion drifted through her like the cool waters. A spot in the clay smeared. Her heart rapid fired. Had she ruined the relic? Yet something . . . Shiloh stilled, staring in disbelief. What on earth?

She rubbed the piece. Metal gleamed beneath the clay. The lip and handle floated away. This wasn’t ancient pottery. She turned it over in her hand. What was it? It almost reminded her of a thermos. About eighteen inches long, the cylinder’s weight surprised her. What was it doing here, buried like treasure? Just as she freed the object, her white watch face flashed, snapping her attention to the competition. Time was up.

Joy ebbed like the tide. Whatever this thing was, she wouldn’t leave it down here for Mikhail. Holding the bag open, she tried to ease in the metal tube. The piece teetered on the edge, nearly falling out, so she slipped it under her arm and started toward the surface. Light again directed her to the rig. Suddenly, thrashing ripples fractured the luminescent water, stirring particulates beneath the wake of a powerful motor.

A speedboat? Why were they so close to the dive area? Didn’t they see the warning beacon, the one that announced divers below? What kind of idiot would put someone’s life in danger for a thrill ride?

A torrent of waves rattled her, threatening her grip on the vase. What . . .? A half-dozen bicolor parrotfish shot past. Shiloh paused, watching their incredible color—like a psychedelic underwater show.

Thwat. Thwat.

A sound vibrated against her chest. She searched for the source but found nothing.

She continued upward, and then someone dropped into the water. Could Mikhail not wait? Sticking to the schedule ensured everyone’s safety. He wasn’t supposed to enter the water until she climbed out. He was in such a hurry to win that he would risk injury to her and anyone who got in his way. She’d throttle him. Only, it wasn’t Mikhail.

Khalid!

A plume of red swirled around his dark form like some freakish science experiment. Blood? Was he bleeding? Her heart skipped a beat—he wasn’t swimming.

Shiloh launched toward him as adrenaline spiraled through her. She struggled to breathe, threatening the nitrox mixture in her tank. Why wasn’t he swimming? He’d drown if it he didn’t paddle back up.

She pushed into his path, and he thudded against her. Hooking her arm under his, she aimed toward the surface, scissoring her legs.

A shadow loomed over the water. Another body plunged toward her, sinking deep and fast. Mikhail’s open, unseeing eyes stared back at her, a shocked expression plastered on his face. Reminding her of an Egyptian plague, the water turned red.

Watery tubes pursued him. Bullets!

What’s happening?

Khalid. He needed oxygen. She wrangled him toward her so she could share her air. The metal cylinder fumbled from her grasp and sunk back into the oblivion where she’d found it. Whatever the thing was, it couldn’t be worth a life—especially not her best friend’s. She removed her air regulator and stuffed it into his mouth.

Khalid jerked. Pain hooded his eyes. His dark brows knitted as he gazed at her. He gripped his side and grimaced. That’s when she saw the source of the red plumes. He’d been shot too. Her gaze flew to the rig. What about the captain and his son?

Khalid caught her arm. With a firm shake of his head, he pointed away from the rig. Escape.

Shiloh linked her harness to his and swam from the rig. Uncertain where they could find safety if someone was determined to kill them, she barreled away from the nightmare. If she could make it to an island—she remembered seeing a small one in the east—they might be safe. Khalid tried to pump his legs, but not successfully. At least he hadn’t passed out. Or died.

Her stomach seized. No way would she let Khalid Khan die. Shiloh wagged her fins faster, thrusting both of them farther from the boat. Seconds lengthened, stretching into what felt like hours. With each stroke, her limbs grew heavier, dragging her down to the ocean floor. She pushed upward, refusing to become a victim.

Suddenly, she was drawn backward, pulled out to sea by the strong natural current hugging the Indian coast. Battling the forces of nature, she did her best to keep herself and Khalid aimed in the right direction. Her chest burned from oxygen deprivation.

The mouthpiece appeared before her. Surprised at Khalid’s attentiveness, she stuffed it in her mouth and inhaled deeply, savoring the strength it gave her. Another twenty meters, and the water collided with mangroves. Shiloh struggled around the roots to a small, shallow inlet. On her knees, she tore out the regulator, dragging Khalid as she clawed her way to safety. He attempted to crawl, but collapsed. She yanked off her goggles and released their d-rings.

Khalid coughed, gagged, and vomited sea water.

Warm sand mired Shiloh’s trembling limbs as she laid there, panting and gasping. The swim had been harder and much longer than she’d expected. They both could have drowned.

She squeezed her eyes shut. Thoughts of what was lost . . . Mikhail! Was he truly dead? Who would attack grad students on a dig? Why?

Shiloh pressed her hand to her forehead, tiny grains of sand digging into her flesh. She rubbed her temples and tried to make sense of the chaos.

“What happened back there, Khalid?” She flipped onto her back, the sun blazing against her pounding skull. “Who was it? Did you see?”

Silence.

Shifting, she rolled her head to peek at him. He wasn’t moving. On all fours, Shiloh scrambled and shook him.

“Khalid!” His gray wetsuit glistened red from the blood that poured from his side. She clamped a hand over his wound, the warmth sickening. “Khalid, talk to me.”

He groaned.

“No!” Fire flashed through her. “You aren’t chickening out. Not now.” Again, she shook him, but this time he didn’t respond. “Please!”

Shiloh examined his chest. Not breathing. With two fingers pressed to his neck, she tried to feel past the hammering of her own heart to detect his pulse. Nothing! She started compressions and breaths, counting between each to keep a steady rhythm. His blood stained her hands. While she pumped his chest, she took a cursory glance around the thick vegetation. It was so thick, she’d never know if someone stood five meters off.

They needed help—now! She activated the emergency beacon on her watch as she again searched—hoped—for help. Her heart caught when she spotted a “mechanical giraffe” staggering in the shifting fog. Jawahar Dweep.

“Butcher Island,” she mumbled, as she tried to revive her friend. The isolated spot only offered isolation and oil. No help. They were alone.

“At least we’re safe,” she said. But would Khalid die? “Don’t you dare!”

She pounded his chest. More blood dribbled from the wound that seemed too close to his lungs.

A rasp grated the air. His ribs rose.

“Khalid?”
He moaned.

Tears stung her eyes as she slumped next to him. “Khalid, stay with me. I’ve activated the beacon.”

His blue lips trembled against his chalky skin. “C-cold.”

She’d always admired his dark olive complexion, but the pallor coating his rugged face worried her. Would she ever see his dark eyes ignite when she made some snide, inappropriate remark? Who would help her through her episodes? She’d told only him about her rare disorder.

“We should move you closer to the rocks to stay warm until help arrives.” Shiloh once again hooked her arms under his and drew him to the side. Blood stained the sandy beach.

A wave rolled in, then out. Red streaks reached toward the warm waters. She nestled him against a large boulder and lay close to keep him warm.

“Stay with me, Khalid. No naps. This is the ultimate test, got it?” She looked to where the ocean kissed the horizon. Mumbai sparkled in the distance. So close, yet so far away it might as well be a million miles. She could only hope they would be found in time.

“You just wanted to kiss me,” Khalid mumbled.

Shiloh jerked toward him, frowning. “What?”
“CPR. I didn’t need it . . .” He coughed. “You just wanted to kiss me.”

With her hand pressed to his forehead, she smiled. “Ah. Just as I expected—delirious with fever.”

A half-cocked grin split his lips.

She tried to swallow. He had been her rock for the last four years. Despite the tight-knit relationship between their parents, Khalid and Shiloh had forged their own friendship in the fires of college life. They’d been inseparable since he came to America to study.

How long would it take Search and Rescue to locate her signal? What if the SAR team didn’t make it in time? If this were American waters, it would only be a matter of minutes, but in the Arabian Sea . . .

Shiloh’s head dropped to her chest. She had to believe everything would be fine. They’d be found, a doctor would tend Khalid’s wounds, he’d recover, and then they’d be off to the Pacific Rim Challenge. She had worked so hard for it. They both had. For the last two years, they had prodded each other toward their common goal. Their requisite dive hours were nearly complete. No, nobody would die, especially not Khalid.

Mikhail died. She clenched her eyes shut and blotted out the image of her rival slipping through the water, sinking lower and lower.

Biting her lip, she groped for something to refocus her attention. Naming the scientific classification for the sun star. Animalia. Echinodermata. Asteroidea. Spinulosida. Solasteridae. Solaster dawsoni.

“Miss . . . Amer . . . ca . . .” Khalid’s words, though broken, speared her heart.

She scooted closer. “I’m here. Be still, Khalid. They’re coming.”

“Marry me.”

“You dork.” She let out a shaky laugh as a shudder tore through her, threatening to unleash tears. Lips pulled taut, she forced herself to remain calm and look at him. “Rest.”

His fingers twitched. She lifted his hand and cradled it in hers.

A gurgling noise bubbled up his throat. “I love . . .”

“No, shh.” He couldn’t love her. Not her.

“Shil . . .”

When he didn’t finish, she knitted her brow. His eyes closed, and his mouth remained open.

“Khalid?”

His arm went slack.

“Khalid!” Tears blurred her vision, making it impossible to see if he was breathing.

A horn blared in the distance. She whipped around and spotted the massive white Indian Coast Guard rig racing toward them with its lights swirling.

* * *

Reece Jaxon straightened and watched the woman without watching. Seeing without being seen. She batted her auburn hair, thick and tangled with ocean water, away from her face. Hiding in plain sight on the rescue boat, he tracked her movement with ease. She hadn’t noticed him yet, even though he was less than a dozen feet away.

Wrapped in a gray thermal blanket Shiloh Blake stared at the injured Pakistani on the medical stretcher as the local authorities churned across the water toward Mumbai. She hadn’t left the man’s side since the rescue.

Another man in his early fifties hooked an arm around her shoulders and drew her close. Dr. Kuntz, according to the file, was fifty-three. Married. Three grown children. An unfaithful wife and a divorce later he’d partnered with a local Indian museum to arrange underwater excavations with U.C. San Diego. Something about the man didn’t sit right with Reece.

“Noor Hospital,” Dr. Kuntz insisted to the Coast Guard captain.

An hour earlier Kuntz had stormed into the Coast Guard station and interrupted Reece’s conversation with the officer. Surprised at the man’s intrusion, Reece feigned disinterest, although Kuntz’s story corroborated what Reece had relayed to the authorities after witnessing the attack. Then? The emergency transponder signal erupted.

Reece noticed Shiloh stiffen under the professor’s protective touch. Kuntz spoke soothingly to her, reassuring her that Noor Hospital would give Khalid the best care. Bent to shield his face, Reece tightened the laces on his boots while memorizing everything that took place in the boat’s small cabin. Now if he had judged her character right, in about twenty seconds she’d pull away from Kuntz.

Shiloh took a step out of the man’s reach.

Bingo.

“I need something to drink.” Reece watched her cross through the hatch. “They said they had coffee up front.”

Dr. Kuntz laughed, his arms outstretched. “But you don’t drink coffee.”

“It’s chilly,” she called without looking back.

Chilly. Interesting. It was a mild sixty-five degrees on the Arabian Sea, and she was chilly.

Shiloh Blake strode straight toward him with her head held high. Calm. Relaxed. Confident.

Come on, look at me, Reece silently dared her.

Blue-grey eyes collided with his. He scratched his beard, wishing he had more than two weeks’ growth, but it was enough to conceal his identity. With an acknowledging nod, he stayed in position. Now if she would only hold his gaze.

Oh, what he wouldn’t give to smile his pleasure as she stared at him. She only tore her eyes from his when it became impractical not to. Reece guessed she would never show any weakness.

Atta, girl.

Although he’d already skimmed the preliminary data on the American students, Shiloh’s impressive character made him want to know more. She had a higher confidence level than most of the people he had monitored in the region. What gave her that unshakable demeanor? Reece determined to get a DNA sample and run her through the system. Was she working undercover?

As the ship bumped Victoria dock, he leaped off and lassoed the pylons. Heavy thuds sounded against the weathered planks as the emergency crew transferred the young woman and her Pakistani friend to a waiting ambulance. Dr. Kuntz doted on her once again, but with no room in the narrow mobile unit, the professor was relegated to a rickshaw.

Shiloh huddled on a small bench in the ambulance, her glassy gaze locked on her friend as the emergency personnel worked on him. Just as the doors swung closed, she glanced toward Reece. A load of steel partially blocked his line of sight. Yet, despite the stenciling on the rear window, he saw her tilt her chin just enough to look for him over the emblem. The ambulance bumped over the sandy path, and then settled on PD Mello Road. Sirens wailed. Lights whirled.

Reece strolled down the boardwalk toward the beach, retrieving the cell from his pocket. He hit autodial. Having to report one American dead was bad enough. But having to tell Ryan Nielsen that another sat neck deep in an ocean of chaos—

“We’ve got trouble.”

What was Shiloh Blake doing at a nuclear arms dead drop?

My thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book. Suspense, international intrigue, and even romance. If you read the first chapter above, you will see the author wastes no time in plunging immediately into the action and suspense.
I believe this is the first book from this author, and it is a great debut novel. I liked the characters, plot, the setting, and to make it even more interesting, for a while the reader is left wondering who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.
I don't rate books with stars, but I do give some books my "read in one sitting" status, which means a book was so good that I didn't want to put it down - and this was one that falls into that category.
This book is available from Abington Press, who provided me with the review copy. A note on Abington fiction: Abington is fairly new on the Christian fiction market - they have published Christian books for several years, but have only recently started publishing fiction, and I have to say I am impressed so far with the fiction they are publishing. It is definitely and unabashedly Christian, no language issues, and is good quality too.