Saturday, March 31, 2007

FIRST POST : Wishing on Dandelions

It is April 1st,
time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!)
The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her
latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature is:

Mary E.

and her book:

Wishing on Dandelions

Publishing, 2006)


This month's feature is very special. The author is
one of the FIRST Day Blog Alliance Members!!! Click here for her Blogspot! MARY E. DeMUTH has spent the
last fifteen years as a writer. Winner of the 2003 Mount Herman
Christian Writers Conference's Pacesetter's Award, she now splits her time
between writing and planting a new church with her husband, Patrick, and
two other families. Wishing on
is the second book in the Maranatha Series. The first was the
critically praised book, Watching the Tree
. She has also written two parenting books. Building the
Christian Family You Never Had
and a new one called Authentic
Parenting in a Postmodern Culture
which will release this
summer with Harvest House. Mary, Patrick, and their three children make
their home in Texas.


I n t r o d u c
t i o n

I still can’t tell my story up close, like it was me in
it,breathing the tangled wisteria on the fence posts of Burl, Texas. There
are times I still can’t bear to say it was me. The book of mylife
continues to open, painful word by painful word, page after page. I get real
close to typing the whole story with the word I in it, but I hit delete
every time, replacing me with she.

Zady tells me I’m ready to write my story honest, but I’m not so sure.
She says she’s there to help me remember my healing,even as she puts an
arm around my shoulder when a tear slips through. “It hurts,” she says.
“Real bad. Lord, I wish it didn’t rip at you so.”

She tells me I survived that story — that I should be proud — yet her
presence brings back its horrid validity written on the backdrop of her
tender love. Reminds me in a kind, wild way that this is my
story even if I can’t seem to admit it on the page.


Summer 1983
Burl, Texas

Uncle Zane appeared disheveled when Maranatha pestered
him. His silvery hair, normally combed and parted in the exact
same place, was instead bunched and unkempt, his part like a
winding Burl road.

“Camilla and me, well, we want to go to the fair. Can you drive us?
Please?” Maranatha practically danced, shifting her weight from one foot
to the other.

“No,” he shouted, an odd outburst for such a quiet man.

Gangly and with a sinewy will of her own, she pled, “C’mon,Uncle Zane.
Everyone will be there. Besides, Camilla promised we’d shoot the fair —
ride every single ride from the merry-goround to the Zipper. This year
I promised her I’d do it without getting sick.”

“I said no.”

Three plain words. Maranatha almost turned away in a thirteen-year-old
huff, but she lingered long enough to see him sit down in a parlor
chair, then bend forward, pressing palms to temple.

“We’ll ride our bikes,” she told him. The room echoed her words. “I’ll
be back later.” Her words stung even as she said
them, particularly because Uncle Zane, usually a man without
reaction, looked up at her with a strange sort of look in his blue
eyes. A look that pleaded, Please stay.

She left him there. And didn’t look back.


Camilla and Maranatha raced down the road toward the embrace of the
fair, miles away. “You’re going to barf on me, I know it,” Camilla teased.

“I will not. My stomach’s better.”

“Oh, right. Now that you’re a teenager, you’re not nauseous? If I were
you, I’d be cautious. I don’t trust your stomach. Neither should you.”

They raced, tire to tire, until Camilla saw a wrought-iron gate and,
behind it, a burnt skeleton of a house. “I smell mystery,” she said. She
stopped her bike. Maranatha nearly crashed into her.

In lieu of a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl, and despite Uncle Zane’s pained
blue eyes, Maranatha and Camilla climbed over the gate. They searched
the scorched scene, pretending to be arson investigators.

They concluded a cat had set fire to the house, taking feline revenge
on an evil master. “All scary houses have names. This one’s Black, sure
as night,” Camilla said.

As the day’s shadows lengthened, after they’d explored the woods behind
the house whose once-grand pillars stood charred against the Texas sky,
Camilla said, “I want to come back here another day.” She put her hands
on her hips and tilted her head back. “Let’s go back to Black.” She
wailed and screamed the words like AC/DC. Maranatha laughed so hard, she
nearly wet her pants.


Maranatha and Camilla never made it to the fair.

Tired from their investigating, they pedaled lazily back to town. “I’ll
see you soon, baboon.” Camilla waved a good-bye to

Something niggled at Maranatha as she walked the stairs of the big
white house. Everything looked the same, but nothing felt that way.

“I’m home, Uncle Zane.” Her voice echoed, bouncing off tall ceilings.
She called Zady’s name, though she knew it was unlikely the housekeeper
would be there on a weekend. She shivered. Loneliness pierced her.

She walked past the parlor to look out the kitchen window at Uncle
Zane’s parking spot, figuring he’d probably left to look for her — again.
He had swung on a wild pendulum from disinterest to overprotection the
day her name changed from Mara to Maranatha three years ago, but his
protection kicked into high gear when she turned thirteen. On her
birthday, he gave her a bike that sported a crudely shaped bow. He handed her a
hockey helmet. “Be careful,” he said. And he meant it.

She stopped in front of the window. Uncle Zane’s white Cadillac sat
silent in the driveway, the same place it’d been when she’d ridden away

Panic ripped through her.

Maranatha ran to the parlor. On the floor, Uncle Zane lay prostrate,
face kissing the oriental rug, arms and legs outstretched like he was
making a prone snow angel.

“Wake up,” she wailed.

But he didn’t. An ambulance came and whisked him away, while the word
stroke hung in the hot Burl evening.


Zady’d tried to soothe Maranatha during his long rehabilitation. “It’s
not your fault, Natha,” she said. “I should’ve checked on him. He
seemed altered, and I should’ve known.”

Though Zady wore guilt in the lengthening lines around her eyes, she
pestered Maranatha with all sorts of don’t-blameyourself words,
meaningless blather that never made it past Maranatha’s terrible heart. The best
way Maranatha could explain it to Camilla was that she and Zady stood
before a giant chalkboard, with the words should have and could have
scrawled over and over again like naughty kids’ sentences. While Zady
tried to erase Maranatha’s coulds and shoulds, Maranatha rewrote them line
by line.

O n e

Summer 1987
Burl, Texas

Every year on the anniversary of his stroke, and many times in
between, Maranatha retraced the route she and Camilla had ridden that day.
In front of her bike tire beckoned a serpentine of gray pavement
radiating heat. The more her shirt clung to her body in a sticky embrace, the
better she liked it.


She’d learned the word from Bishop Renny. He said something about
trying to make things right by abusing yourself. Said Jesus took the need
for all that away. But she knew Jesus would say something different to
her, considering how she’d nearly killed Uncle Zane because of her

The hot Burl breeze tangled Maranatha’s hair so that it whipped and
wrangled about her face. She didn’t mind, didn’t even brush a casual hand
to her face to clear the hair from her eyes. At seventeen, she welcomed
the wildness, wearing her tangles like a needed mask. A gust of
sideways wind whipped the mask from her face.

Maranatha passed the costume shop where, behind a cracked front window,
one headless mannequin sported a faded Santa suit and another, a
sequined Twenties dress. She pedaled past the farm implement shop whose yard
was dotted with ancient rusty plows. This strip of road held most of
Burl’s broken dreams — a turn-of-the-century white farmhouse, now
converted into a bed and breakfast that no one visited, a handpainted For Sale
sign declaring the dream dead. A mobile home stood way back on a fine
piece of property, the structure tilted oddly to the left where the
cement blocks had deteriorated. A goat preened on its roof, claiming it for
himself. Four years ago, children had played out front. She and Camilla
had even waved to them. So carefree for such a day.

Wiping the sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand, she
glanced down at the too-small bike, despising it, as if it had once held her
hostage, carrying her away from Uncle Zane’s need four years ago when
she and Camilla had been drawn toward the lure of cotton candy and
caramel apples.

Maranatha veered onto the familiar gravel driveway flanked by crepe
myrtles. She stopped, straddling her bike, catching her breath. She
listened for cars but heard only the labored noise of a tractor, far away,
until the engine sputtered and died.

The silence roared at her.

It should have blessed her with peace; instead, she remembered Uncle
Zane’s hair askew and wondered why God let a selfish girl like her take
up space in this world.

She looked behind her. Her thoughts shifted as a deeper worry played at
her, taunting her. Though she never voiced it, she lived with a
constant fear that someone would burst from the silence and grab her. She
hated that she always looked behind, like she was expecting some crouching
phantom to nab her. She’d been running from monsters bent on destroying
her ever since General first drawled, “Hey, Beautiful” in her ear. Even
though she was sheltered in Uncle Zane’s white house and safety was no
longer elusive, she always felt the presence of evil five steps behind
her. Ready to suffocate her.

She glanced at her wrist to soothe her fears. Circling it was her name,
maranatha, each sterling letter separated by a bead. Zady’d given it to
her a year after she found out that her real name wasn’t Mara but
Maranatha. Part of her quest in discovering her identity was a need for a
name that meant more than “bitter.” When she learned that her real name
meant “Come, Lord Jesus,” a part of her heart enlivened, as if it knew
she was named that all along. She touched each letter, thanking God that
He added Natha to the end of her name, that He changed her from bitter
to a heart where Jesus could live. If He wanted to, that is.

She got off her bike. The same wrought-iron gate stood erect before
her, chalkboard black and foreboding, with an out-of-place silhouette of a
squirrel at its arched top. It always reminded her of Willy Wonka’s
gate, the gate that prohibited children from seeing the mysteries within
the glorious Chocolate Factory. She laid her bike in its familiar dusty
place behind the crepe myrtles
and approached the gate. Locked.

As usual.

Heart thumping, she tried the handle, a ritual she performed every time
she ventured to this place, the scene of her selfishness. Why she
thought it would magically open today, she didn’t know. When she tugged at
it, the gate creaked a warning, but it didn’t budge. Looking back toward
the road, she listened again. Nothing. Only the sound of a dove calling
to its lover and the crackle of too-dry grass rubbing against itself
like a fiddle against its bow. She breathed in the hot air and touched
the angry wrought iron. She returned to the bike, unzipped the pouch
behind her seat, and stretched on her bike gloves. Attacking the gate
again, she pulled herself up, up, up until she could swing her leg over the
gate’s pointed top. She scampered down, preferring to jump the last
three feet.

Maranatha smiled. Before her was an open field whose hair was littered
with dandelions past their prime. Bits of dandelion white floated in
front of her like an idle snowfall, only these flurries drifted toward
the sun, away from the ground, in lazy worship. Beyond the field stood
the remains of the charred mansion.

Now shaded by the house’s pillars, she remembered Uncle Zane’s eyes the
day of his stroke. The smile left her face.

She ran to the middle of the field, trying to shake the memory — her
laughing, laughing, laughing while Uncle Zane pled for her. She stopped.
Maranatha picked one dandelion, held it to her mouth, and blew a warm
breeze over its head, scattering wishes toward the has-been mansion.
Jesus, You know my name. I want to live up to it. I want my heart to
be a place where You want to come. But I’m afraid it’s too dark there.
What I’ve done. What’s been done to me. . . . I’m sorry I’m so needy,
but I have to know, have to know it in my gut. Please show me You love me
anyway. Whatever it takes.

It had been her wish since she met Jesus under the pecan tree at her
home, back in the days when Uncle Zane had a quiet will and Zady, his
housekeeper and her friend, kept house without the intrusions of
Georgeanne, who had invaded their peaceful home with her schemes. Zady dished
out helpings and helpings of His love every day at Uncle Zane’s table,
but Maranatha never seemed to be able to digest even a scrap. She
experienced Jesus at church, surrounded by Mama Frankie and faces darker than
her own. When dark-skinned Denim spoke or his pale-faced stepdaughter
Camilla rhymed truth, Maranatha thanked God for making unique folks, for
giving her friends. Still, Jesus’ love seemed far away, and she,

A portion of her little girl’s heart had been abducted by General, the
boy-turned-man who violated her so many years ago. His pocked face
visited her in nightmares where she had no voice, no safety, no escape. He
seemed to lurk behind every stray noise. He didn’t haunt Burl anymore,
but he lived firmly in her mind, igniting dread. She feared he’d stolen
the only part of her that could have understood God’s love. She feared
he held the middle piece to the puzzle of her life.

Am I wishing for something I’ll never have?

Maranatha shielded her eyes from the pursuing sun and walked toward the
burnt house. Four once-white pillars stood tall, blackened by angry
flames. She remembered when she’d first seen Uncle Zane’s home nearly a
decade ago, how it loomed large on its street, how she’d longed to be the
owner there someday. But reality was more complicated than that. Sure,
she lived there now. Little by little, she was renovating it to
splendor, but lately the joy of transforming it had waned thin, like a pilled
swimsuit at summer’s end. Fixing things was hard. She’d painted and
painted until her fingernails were permanently speckled. Then the pier and
beam foundation settled further, cracking her handiwork.

As she gazed upward at the four pillars that reached for the sky, where
the abandoned house’s roof once lived, she wondered if she’d ever have
a home of her own, children about her legs, a husband to love her. The
thought of marriage both repulsed her and pulsed through her. Hatred
and longing — all in one girl.

She walked through the rubbish, darkening her red-dirted shoes, looking
for a sign from heaven. She played this game sometimes, asking God for
signs, for sacred objects that showed her that He saw her, that He knew
she existed. That He cared.

Something glinted off and on as the sun played hide-and-seek through
the trees. She bent low to the ashes, her body blocking the sun. The
glinting stopped, so she stood and let the sun have its way again. There,
spotlighted beneath the gaze of the pillars, was a simple, thick-banded
gold ring. She retrieved it, dusted the ashes from the gold, and
examined it, turning it over and over in her hand.

Inside the ring was a faint engraving. Forever my love.

“Thank You,” she whispered, but her words melted in a hot wind. Dark
clouds obscured the sun. The sky purpled. She’d seen a sky like that
before. She slipped the ring into her shirt pocket and ran toward her bike,
climbed the hot gate like a criminal pursued, and dropped on the other

She mounted her bike. From behind she heard a bustled scurrying, like
the furious bending of too-dry alfalfa.

Then darkness.

Someone’s hands suffocated her eyes, obscuring the day, stealing her
screaming breath. She kicked her leg over the tenspeed, struggling to
free herself from the firm grip, and tried to holler. Like in her
nightmares, she was mute from terror. Though she knew General’s presence was
illogical — he’d been shipped off to some sort of juvenile-offender boot
camp — she could almost smell his breath as she gasped for her own. She
heard a laugh but couldn’t place it. It sounded familiar, like family.

She kicked and elbowed like a kindergarten boy proving his manhood
against a playground bully, but the hands stayed enlaced around her eyes.

More laughter. Even more familiar.

She took a deep breath and screamed. Real loud.

Thunder answered back.


Sample from Wishing on Dandelions / ISBN 1576839532
Copyright © 2006 NavPress Publishing. All rights reserved. To order copies of
this resource, come back to

Friday, March 30, 2007

Reclaiming Nick by Susan May Warren Blog Tour

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing RECLAIMING NICK ( Tyndale Fiction, 2007) by Susan May Warren

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Award winning author SUSAN MAY WARREN recently returned home to her native Minnesota after serving for eight years with her husband and four children as missionaries with SEND International in Far East Russia. She now writes full time from Minnesota's north woods. Visit her Web site at


RECLAIMING NICK is the first of The Noble Legacy series. Book Two, Taming Rafe, will be available January 2008.

A Modern Day Prodigal Comes Home...

But when his father dies and leaves half of Silver Buckle--the Noble family ranch--to Nick’s former best friend, he must return home to face his mistakes, and guarantee that the Silver Buckle stays in the Noble family.

Award-winning journalist Piper Sullivan believes Nick framed her brother for murder, and she’s determined to find justice. But following Nick to the Silver Buckle and posing as a ranch cook proves more challenging than she thinks. So does resisting his charming smile.

As Nick seeks to overturn his father’s will--and Piper digs for answers--family secrets surface that send Nick’s life into a tailspin. But there’s someone who’s out to take the Silver Buckle from the Noble family, and he’ll stop at nothing--even murder--to make it happen.

“Susan May Warren once again delivers that perfect combination of heart-pumping suspense and heart-warming romance.”--Tracey Bateman, author of the Claire Everett series

If you would like to hear more about Nick, he has his own blog. Also, the first chapter is there...

Friday, March 23, 2007

It Happens Every Spring Blog Tour

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing


GARY CHAPMAN is the author of the New York Times best seller The Five Love Languages and numerous othe rbooks. He's the director of Marriage & Family Life Consultants, Inc., and host of A Growing Marriage, a syndicated radio program heard on over 100 stations across North America. He and his wife, Karolyn, live in North Carolina.

CATHERINE PALMER is the Christy Award-winning, CBA best-selling author of more than forty novels--including The Bachelor's Bargain--which have more than 2 million copies in print. She lives in Missouri with her husband, Tim, and two sons.


IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING is the first of The Four Seasons fiction series, based on the ever-changing cycles of relationships detailed in Gary Chapman's nonfiction book The Four Seasons of Marriage. The novels will focus on four couples, each moving in and out of a different season.

Word travels fast at the Just As I Am beauty shop.

So when a simple homeless man appears on Steve and Brenda Hansen's doorstep, the entire shop is set abuzz, especially when Brenda lets him sleep on their porch.

That's not all the neighbors are talking about. Spring may be blooming outdoors, but an icy chill has settled over the Hansens' marriage. Steve is keeping late hours with clients, and the usually upbeat Brenda is feeling the absence of her husband and her college-age kids.Add to that the unsavory business moving in next to the beauty shop and the entire community gets turned upside down. Now Brenda's friends must unite to pull her out of her rut and keep the unwanted sotre out of town. But can Steve and Brenda learn to thaw their chilly marriage and enjoy the hope spring offers?

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Reliance by Mary Lu Tyndall Blog Tour

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
( Barbour, January 1, 2007)
Mary Lu Tyndall

M. L. (MARYLU) TYNDALL grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.
One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she's only give her heart to Him completely.

A YOUNG BRIDE separated from her husband just as a child has been conceived...

A GRIEVING HUSBAND tempted to take his anger out through the vices of his past...

A MARRIAGE AND A SHIP threatenend to be split apart by villainous Caribbean pirates...

In THE RELIANCE, Edmund Merrick tormented by the apparent demise of his pregnant wife Charlisse, sails away to drown his sorrows. He turns his back on God and reverts to a life of villainy, joining forces with the demented French pirate Collier. When his mind clears from its rum-induced haze, will Edmund find the will to escape?

Seemingly abandoned by her new husband, Charlisse battles her own insecurities as she is thrown into the clutches of the vengeful pirate Kent, who holds her and Lady Isabel captive.

Will she be swept away by the undertow of treachery and despair? Can Edmund and Charlisse battle the tempests that threaten to tear them apart and steer their way to the faith-filled haven they so desperately seek? Or will they ultimately lose their love and lives to the whirlpool of treachery and deceit?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Watchers Blog Tour

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing
THE WATCHERS ( Bethany House, March 1, 2007)

MARK ANDREW OLSEN whose novel The Assignment was a Christy Award finalist, also collaborated on bestsellers Hadassah (now the major motion picture: One Night With the King), The Hadassah Covenant, and Rescued. The son of missionaries to France, Mark is a graduate of Baylor University. He and his wife, Connie, live in Colorado Springs with their three children.

Just below the surface among the family of God lives another family tree--one traced in spirit, invisible and ageless, known as the Watchers. For two thousand years they've seen beyond the veil separating this world from the next, passing on their gift through a lineage mostly overlooked. Throughout history they've scouted the borders of the supernatural frontier, but now their survival hangs by a thread. And their fate lies in the hands of a young woman, her would-be killer, and a mystery they must solve....

"Congratulations. You just reached my own little corner of cyberspace.

Who am I?

Abby Sherman, that's who.

Who are you? And why are you checking me out?

Drop me a few pixels, and let's find out!"

With that innocent invitation, Abby Sherman unwittingly steps in the crosshairs of history, and thus begins her harrowing tale--taking her from ocean-front Malibu to the streets of London, the jungles in West Africa, the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, and to the very gates of heaven itself!

A sneak preview of eternity becomes her one-way ticket to danger--and discovery….

Two lives collide in a globe-circling adventure involving both peril and discovery: Abby, a young woman whose visions of heaven turn her into a Web-celebrity; and Dylan, a troubled young man sent by an ancient foe to silence her. From California beachfronts to Nigerian rain forests to Jerusalem and back again, THE WATCHERS is high-octane blends of action, mystery, and spiritual battle spanning centuries.

A woman's awe-inspiring vision launches her on a quest through distant lands and ancient history, face-to-face with eternity and into the arms of a family line on the brink of annihilation...

A man who is hired to exterminate her discovers the folly of blind loyalty, then learns how to wage war in a realm he never believed had existed...

An extraordinary saga of the unseen war against evil, the reality of the supernatural, and the transforming power of forgiveness.

"A writer who can take your breath away with a single sentence. A welcome, fresh voice that must be read!"--Ted Dekker

Friday, March 02, 2007

FIRST POST: Scimitar's Edge

It is March 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

Marvin Olasky

and his book:

Scimitar's Edge


Dr. Olasky is editor-in-chief of World Magazine, a senior fellow of the Acton Institute, and a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife Susan have been married for 30 years and have four sons. He has written 17 non-fiction books and has also started (with several others) a Christian school; he has been a crisis pregnancy center chairman, a foster parent, a Little League assistant coach, a PTA president, and an informal advisor to George W. Bush. He is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Michigan.

Stepping away from his roles as professor, historian, and creator of "compassionate conservatism," Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of WORLD Magazine has penned an edge-of-your-seat novel that educates as well as it informs.

SCIMITAR'S EDGE is the story of four unique Americans on a journey that takes them to a world of great beauty and great danger. Olasky uses his vast knowledge of the culture to pen a tale about the War on Terror that is so realistic it might have been taken from today's headlines.


1. What's the book about?

At its basic level it's about Americans who go to Turkey for a vacation -- I spent a month there two years ago -- and are kidnapped by Turkish Hezbollah; the question then is how to get away and whether to forget about the whole thing or attempt to fight back. In another sense Scimitar's Edge is about America and the war against terrorism: Now that it's almost five years since 9/11 many of us almost seem to be on vacation again, but the terrorists are not.
2. You're a journalist and professor by trade, with about 18 non-fiction books in your past. What led you to turn to fiction?

Largely fun. In one sense I was playing SIM Turkey: Drop four people into a harsh foreign environment, give them action and adventure, build a romance … I grew to like the characters and wanted to see what they would do. I also enjoyed the challenge: I've written lots of nonfiction books and know how to do that,
but this was all new.
3. Is your research for fiction different from your nonfiction research?

The trunk is common - as I traveled through Turkey I took notes on geography, food, customs, and so forth - but the branches differ. My nonfiction research emphasizes accuracy concerning what has happened; for example, every quotation
has to be exactly what a person said. In fiction, though, I'm
inventing dialogue, yet everything that happens has to be true to the characters and the situation.
4. What's been the feedback from your fans since your switchto fiction? Oh, are there fans?

Actually, I've gotten excellent reactions from many of the folks who like my nonfiction. A few worry about sexual allusions - one of the characters is a serial adulterer and two of the others, as they fall in love, encounter sexual tension. Scimitar's Edge is also an action/adventure novel so there's some shooting, and one of the main characters is a terrorist who relishes lopping off heads. So anyone who wants a sugary book should look elsewhere.
5. You also include some descriptions of what's been called "the forgotten holocaust" a century ago, and explain some Turkish history.

Turkey was the proving ground for the first sustained governmental attempt at genocide, as Turks killed over one million Armenians and sent many to concentration camps; Hitler admired that effort. But Turkey has often been a central player in world affairs, not a backwater. Nearly two millennia ago Turkey became a Christian stronghold: The seven churches John addresses in the book of Revelation, for example, were in what is now Western Turkey. Going back one millennium, what is now Turkey was the front line for a clash of Christian and Muslim cultures.
6. I know you wrote your doctoral dissertation about film and politics from the 1930s through the 1960s, a time when Westerns were one of the dominant genres, and I see certain Western-like elements in this book.

Westerns came in about seven different varieties, and one of them was called the "revenge Western," where a bad man has killed a beloved person and the hero heads out to bring him to justice. In nuanced Westerns the hero at various points asks himself whether his end justifies his means and whether it's worth giving up a lot to carry out what he planned. An internal struggle of that sort occurs in this book as well.
7. Scimitar's Edge is an unusual novel that combines action against terrorists with quotations from Walker Percy. In fact, the book ends with an allusion to one of Percy's most enduring characters, Will Barrett. Were you consciously trying to walk a knife-edge between high-brow and low-brow culture?

Not consciously; that's just where I am myself. Since evangelicals are sometimes disparaged as dumb, some press to show we're not by tossing around Latin phrases or going to opera rather than popular movies -- not that there's anything wrong with opera, as long as there's a car chase within the first five minutes. To me it comes down to enjoying the pleasures God gives us, including those from both popular culture and literary culture.
8. Are you planning a sequel?

When I talk with students about careers we discuss the importance of both internal calling and external calling - do you feel God's pleasure as you do something, and do other people think you're good at it? I feel the internal call to write more novels; I'm trying to discern the external call from readers.


Note: All present-day characters are fictional except for the media and political personalities in chapter sixteen and one character in chapter twenty-one: There really is a Metropolitan Ozmen at the Deur-ul Zaferan Monastery near the Turkish- Syrian border.

Descriptions of historical characters are factual. Suleyman Mahmudi did build Castle Hosap in southeastern Turkey in 1643.

The chess game in chapter fourteen derives from one played by Gustav Richard Neumann and Adolf Anderssen in Berlin in 1864, but then it was not a matter of life or death.


Zeliha Kuris sat in her living room in Konya, scarcely believing what she was watching on TRT1, the major government-run channel in Turkey. The second of the twin towers of New York was crumpling. She cried, thinking of the horrible way so many were dying. Then came a knock on her door.

She peered out cautiously. Ever since her last book, threats from Hezbollah terrorists had come as fast as the sewage ran after heavy rains. One fatwa against her read, "She has confused and poisoned Muslims with her Western ideas. She deserves death."

But it was only a man, Trafik Kurban, whose ailing mother she had helped. They had met in the room at the hospital where the old woman was dying of lung cancer. Trafik's hollow cheeks and chain-smoking habits made generational continuity likely, but he had seemed friendly enough as he joked about his favorite American film, The Wizard of Oz. Zeliha opened the door to him.

"I have a present for you in my car," he said, taking her hand in his own—it was sticky soft—and pointing to a white Mitsubishi that sat at the curb. "You showed yourself a true daughter of Turkey during my mother's duress, and I want to thank you."

Zeliha looked up and down the street but saw no danger signs. She smiled and followed him to the vehicle. Trafik reached in, pulled out a three-foot-tall scarecrow stuffed with straw, and handed it to her. She gave it a puzzled look before smiling and saying, "It's lovely."

Then Trafik stuck a needle into her arm and shoved her into the car.

She came to in a dank basement. At first all she could sense was the overpowering smell of onions. The odor hung in the air and left her struggling for breath. Her hands were bound behind her back, her legs tethered to a pillar. All was quiet, but then she heard movement and conversation on the floor above.

She strained to catch what was being said. A man with a booming voice. He sounded joyous. "Passed the initiation . . . Trafik, one of us . . . member of Hezbollah."

Hezbollah! So Trafik was not just a petty criminal. Hezbollah! Instantly she knew what would happen though her tormentors made her wait. She lost track of the time and must have dozed because when she awoke her throat was parched and a glass of water sat just beyond her reach.

She often heard the man with the loud, harsh voice talking and then laughing outside the door. When the door opened, the smell of fresh bread wafted into the room. Only when her mouth was as dry as Saudi sand and her stomach cramped from hunger did the loud man enter. Even then he was patient, standing for a time just staring at her.

Finally he leaned close, smelling of garlic, his thick black mustache tickling her check. Spit from his mouth sprayed her face. "You wanted to be Turkey's Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasrin, eh? They deserve to die, and you will."

On the first day he beat her. On the second day he dripped burning nylon on her, all the time complaining that he had to use primitive torture devices because her Western allies kept him from getting modern electroshock devices. He demanded information about the members of her conspiracy. She explained that there was no conspiracy, that she had only written what was true. He became furious.

Upstairs she could hear The Wizard of Oz playing nonstop, with the Munchkins' song turned up loud to cover up her screams. She imagined Trafik was watching, and her one hope was that he would come to see her so she could ask him how he felt betraying the woman who had been his dying mother's only friend. Trafik did not descend, but she heard him chortle as the Wicked Witch screamed, "I'm melting, melting."

Finally he did stand in front of her, but instead of displaying remorse he held a camera. As the loud man did his work, Trafik silently recorded the ravages of torture. Summoning her remaining strength, Zeliha spat at him. "How could you do this?" But before he answered, if he answered, she lost consciousness and never returned to life.



Providence Community Church in South Philadelphia was hosting its end-of-the-school-year rally. Five hundred members of church youth groups from the Philadelphia and Wilmington areas came to hear a hot rock band and enjoy a cookout, with a skit about the danger of growing gang violence sandwiched in between.

The band was hammering at high decibels in the low-lit sanctuary. Teens stood on the pews, swaying and clapping to the music. No one noticed a young man entering through the double doors at the back. A white and blue bandanna covered his head and an obscenity-laden T-shirt hung nearly to his knees, still not far enough to reach the crotch of his baggy blue jeans. His right arm was tattooed with spiderwebs, "laugh now, cry later" clown faces, and the name "Luis." His right hand held a .38. Before a greeter could offer a welcome, Luis sent a bullet through one guitar and another clanging into a microphone stand.

As the band members froze in confusion, teens in the audience laughed and applauded the clever opening to the skit. A third bullet tore into the bass drum and sent the band members scurrying.

A lone voice yelled, "He's shooting at us! Duck down!" The skinny youth pastor, looking not much older than the kids who packed the dark sanctuary, stood up and waved his arms wildly. "This is not the gang skit. This is for real." His voice cracked, sending the crowd into fits of laughter. Suddenly his left arm jerked wildly and a red stain spread over the sleeve of his white shirt. "Get down in the pews!" he screamed.

Kids close to him began to yell and duck under their pews. Those on the other side still thought they were part of an interactive skit. "Paintball!" one boy yelled. "Awesome!"

Luis was outraged. "Shut up! All of you just shut up! Enough of this Jesus crap!"

One girl whispered, "Can he say that in church?" The boy next to her shouted, "Wash your mouth out with soap!" His friends gave him high fives.

The shooter turned and glowered at them, cursing in a combination of Spanish and English, swinging the gun from side to side as he sidled away from the doors and snarled, "Where's Carlos?" He snapped off two shots, hitting a girl. She screamed, moved her hand to her shoulder, looked at her red-stained fingers, and screamed again: "He shot me!"

Her voice reflected shock and betrayal. That's when panic set in.
Across the parking lot in the church manse the old air conditioner rat-a-tatted as Washington Post national security correspondent Halop Bogikian finished his interview of pastor David Carrillo, known for his work with gangs. This was an unusual assignment for Hal, but reports of Al-Qaeda connections with a Hispanic gang, Mara Salvatrucha—MS-13 for short—were surfacing; and his editor thought he should learn about the gang and the possibility that it could smuggle an atomic bomb across the border.

The journalist and the pastor sat across from each other at a round oak table in the book-lined study. Carrillo leaned back in his chair, a smile playing around his lips. Hal thought the pastor too relaxed, too comfortable in his own skin, so it was time to pounce. Leaning forward, pen poised above his reporter's notebook, thin and wiry Hal searched the pastor's face. "You're saying that hard-core gang members, even members of MS-13, get religion and turn from their wicked ways?"

"I know you don't believe it, but that's what often happens." Hal shook his head as though dealing with an imaginative six-year-old. "Church and state issues aside, why should anyone believe that gang members will give up power—and what seems to them an efficient way to get money—for God?"

Carrillo smiled. "I'm not expecting you to take my word for it. A young man, Carlos, is waiting in the living room. He has a remarkable story to tell you if you've got the time."

Hal glanced at his watch. He wanted to get back on the road to Washington. This whole trip to Philly had been a mistake, proving once again that you couldn't trust an editor to know the elements of a decent story. He began to offer an excuse as he capped his pen, but the pastor looked like a little kid who had called him chicken. Hal removed the cap from his pen. "OK, I'll listen."

Carrillo opened the door to the living room. "Hey, Carlos, come on in." A heavy-set boy with a bad case of acne shuffled into the room, his pants dragging on the floor. His black hair was slicked back from his face, and the beginning of a wispy black goatee shaded his jaw. Though he was seventeen, his voice cracked when he spoke: "Me and my friends joined a street gang last year, La Mara Salvatrucha. Guys call it MS-13."

Hal nodded, thinking, Here comes one more of those born-again stories.

"A couple of weeks ago, a little after midnight, three of us were standing near a 7-11, and some chicas cruised by, shouting insults at us. Our leader, Luis, hurled a bottle at them, but they kept going. Then a few minutes later we saw this big old Chevy come by. Three guys from the South Side Locos with baseball bats. They chased us into the projects."

Hal thought, Might as well get some more human interest. He began writing.

"Luis said, 'Let's get our machetes and show them.' Those Locos saw us coming out and ran, man. It was funny. But one of them tripped. The others kept going, so we caught him. I kicked him a couple of times. But Luis said, 'Let's teach the Locos that they can't mess with MS-13.'"

Carlos was silent for a time. He pulled a chain out of his pocket, which he twisted and twined between his fingers. The faint roar of noise from the nearby highway continued. A car backfired.

The pastor said, "Sounds like the concert is over. I'm not hearing the bass." Hal took another look at his watch and tried not to let the kid see how impatient he was to be off.

Carlos started up again: "OK, I want to get this off my chest. Luis started to nick that guy with his machete: hands, head, all over. I tell you, Luis is more loco than the Locos. He covers his whole body with MS-13 tattoos. But when he started to cut that guy's fingers off it was bad, real bad."

Hal's pen flew over the page of his notebook. He kicked himself for not bringing a tape recorder. While he wrote, trying to capture the cadence of the boy's speech, he felt the first flutter of excitement: This could be a good column, maybe even award winning.

Across the table the boy's voice stopped. Hal looked up from his notebook and saw Carlos crying. "The guy was screaming. I was screaming. Luis kept cutting. Left only the thumb. He laughed and said the guy could hitch a ride home. That's when I decided I had to get out. My mom could tell something was wrong. She nagged me nonstop and wouldn't get off my back until I came to talk to the preacher."

Just then a young woman ran in. "Pastor, come quick." Hal took in bright hazel eyes, slender neck, soft shoulders, and a name tag reading "Sally." He had never seen anyone so lovely. Then her words sank in: "Someone's shooting in the sanctuary. I've called 911."

Carrillo jumped up and headed out the door to the church building. Carlos's face blanched. "Luis! It's gotta be. He's gonna kill me." He looked desperately for a place to hide. Sally bit her upper lip. "Stay here. You'll be safe." She looked up at Hal as though seeing him for the first time: "You stay with him."

Hal said, "Can't. I'm a reporter." He grabbed his pad and slammed through the front door toward his car. He heard Sally's scornful voice at his back: "That figures. He wants to be first with the story." She gave Carlos a reassuring pat on the back before following the pastor.

Carrillo entered the sanctuary through a side door and surveyed the scene. Children cowered behind the pews as Luis stalked back and forth, careful to stay away from doors and windows. "I want that traitor! Where is Carlos?" he kept yelling.

Carrillo took a step into the sanctuary: "Put the gun down, son. This is a house of God."

Luis sneered and swore at him. Carrillo kept his voice even. "You haven't killed anyone," he said, hoping it was true. "The police will be here soon. It will be better for you if you put the gun down."

"Shut up! I don't want more Jesus junk like the lies you told Carlos. I should just shoot you and put you out of your misery. Want to die?"

Carrillo said evenly, "You can shoot me if you want. I'm not afraid to die. I know where I'm going."

"Don't give me any heaven stuff," Luis screamed. "I can turn this place into hell. My boys and me are gonna nuke the city. And I'll start with you." He pulled the trigger, and Carrillo felt a piercing pain on the right side of the chest. As he crumpled to the floor, the shooter turned his gaze toward the front of the sanctuary.

Suddenly a voice from the back demanded, "Drop your weapon."

Sally stood just outside the side door through which the pastor had entered. With her foot she held the door open about six inches. She could see Carrillo on the floor. The mystery speaker was outside her line of vision. She strained to hear police sirens.

Luis ran past the side door toward the back. She could hear his heavy breathing and his heavy footfall on the tile floor. He raised his gun and fired twice. Then Sally heard an answering shot and the metallic sound of a gun being kicked across the floor. She opened the door cautiously and saw Luis on the floor, and a shadowy figure walking away.

With no time to puzzle over the identity of the second shooter, Sally pushed open the door completely and crab-walked to the pastor as he moaned and a rising chorus of cries filled the sanctuary. Carrillo's shirt was soaked with blood. Sally looked vainly for something to use to staunch the bleeding, before settling on her skirt. She unzipped it and slipped it off, then bunched it up and pressed it into the wound.

She waited for the sirens. What's taking so long? she thought. She hadn't prayed for a long time, but she did now, although it was more of a complaint: God, how could you let this happen? What's the point?
As the first police cars fishtailed into the church parking lot, followed by ambulances, Hal started up his Jetta, which he'd parked on the street across from the manse. The hand that had held the Colt .45 shook, and he wished that he still smoked. He didn't know if he'd killed Luis or not; he hoped not. Not knowing whether he should stay, he asked himself what the penalty was for a person with one shooting in his past using an unlicensed gun to save lives. He decided not to stay and find out.

As Hal headed onto the highway, he called his editor, gave him the outlines of the story, and said wire service reporters would be there soon. Brushing off demands that he stay and do the reporting, he used the sentence he had used many times before: "If you don't like it, fire me." Sometimes editors had complied.

He turned on the radio, scanning the stations until he found a news-talk station where some caller was blathering about delays at airport checkpoints. He was about to jab the button again when he heard a special bulletin giving brief details about the shooting. Then the soft voice of an eyewitness identified as Sally Northaway was describing the pastor's action and telling a reporter, "I've never before seen bravery like Reverend Carrillo's."

Hal scribbled "Sally" in his reporter's notebook as he tried to erase the memory of her scornful denunciation when he fled the room. He flipped to another station: "A pastor is in critical condition, and four others plus the accused gunman are wounded. It would have been much worse except for the intervention of an unidentified bystander."

Hal honked as a Mercedes cut him off. He let a Ford Focus get in front of him as they approached a tollbooth. He turned on the CD player and listened to Patty Griffin's melancholy voice: There's a war and a plague, smoke and disaster Lions in the coliseum, screams of laughter, Motherless children, a witness and a Bible, Nothing but rain ahead, no chance for survival.

Hal let himself be lost in her misery and hellish visions, preferring them to his own. Only when he reached the outskirts of D.C. and saw out of the corner of his eye an IKEA store with a sign proclaiming "Manager's special. Swedish meat balls $5.68. Comes with salad," did he think about eating. He parked in a huge lot, noting with irritation the SUVs surrounding him.

Hal entered the modern building and immediately felt himself relax. Something about the white walls, cool wood floors, and spare furniture always did that to him, though he didn't know why. Probably had to do with all the stories of human abuse and torture he'd been forced to endure at his granddad's knee: IKEA represented cool detachment.

The cafeteria was nearly empty except for a couple drinking coffee by the windows. Hal pointed at the meatballs and said, "No gravy, please. Vegetables instead of potatoes." He filled his salad bowl with lettuce and added two cherry tomatoes. The cashier rang it up: "$7.10."

Hal waited a second and said, "Taxes aren't that much, even here in Maryland. The sign said $5.68."

The cashier stared at him and replied, "That don't include the toppings on the salad."

He stalked back to the salad bar and dumped the tomatoes into their bin. He returned to the register: "How's that?


The cashier laughed. "Yes, sir."

Hal took a table away from the windows and as far from the register as he could get. He ate slowly, relishing the meatballs and remembering how his grandparents had told him to chew everything twice and hug every penny. Contemplating how they had nearly starved as small children during the Armenian holocaust that was a sidelight of World War I, he wiped his plate clean, then drove to his apartment in a not-yet-gentrified building east of Capitol Hill.

Outside his door, Hal took in the odor of urine that never went away. One of the neighbor kids had left a couple of matchbox cars in front of his door. He gave them a soft kick that sent them rolling down the corridor. He unlocked his door and stepped into the living room, which was largely filled by an IKEA couch, its once-white cushions turned gray. A round pine table covered with cigarette burns, stains, and words etched into the soft surface by Hal's too enthusiastic scribbling sat in front of the room's one window.

One wall was decorated with portraits of Armenian leaders that he'd inherited from his dad. On the opposite wall an entertainment center looked forlorn, with a twelve-inch television in the space allocated for one much larger. A folder containing photos taken of Hal with important politicians was nearly buried beneath a stack of papers. He threw his rumpled blazer onto the couch and flicked on the news. The church shooting received some play, but his role merited only a brief mention at the end: "Police are trying to pin down the identity of the hero who prevented a mass killing today."

He paced the room, thinking it crazy that he had a good story but couldn't write it and even had to hope that no one would connect him with the shooting. Maybe it would be best to get out of town for a while. He could use a vacation.

Hal spent the next hour jotting down notes for a presentation he would make the next morning in response to a speech from an academic crank—not just any crank but his freshman roommate from Columbia sixteen years before. Finally, near midnight, he flopped down on his mattress, which lay on the floor next to wire baskets filled with clothes. He complimented himself on his stoicism and lack of concern for material things. But as he drifted uneasily off to sleep, he was asking himself what he did care about.
Also at midnight Washington time—seven a.m. in Antakya, Turkey, the city known in biblical times as Antioch—a man who knew what he cared about convened a meeting in a terrorist safe house to discuss his next move.

The man, Suleyman Hasan, had a Middle Eastern marquee idol's features—height, thick black mustache, and olive skin. His lieutenant, Trafik Kurban, sat to the right, sucking furiously on a cigarette and grimacing frequently, as if pressing salt on an open wound. Mustafa Cavus, his well-muscled but potbellied special agent, sat to Suleyman's left in a molded plastic chair, wiping at his nose with a gray handkerchief as he waited for the chief to speak.
Sitting in the back were Suleyman's wife, Fatima, and a friend of hers, Kazasina, along with four students: Gurcan Aktas and Zubeyir Uruk from the University of Bosphorus in Istanbul, Sulhaddin Timur from Dokuz Eylul University in Izmir, and Fadil Bayancik from Mustafa Kemal University in Antakya.

The students all wore thick mustaches in imitation of Suleyman as well as school insignia because their leader insisted that his new insurgents have degrees. He had told them in his loud, deep voice, "We do not want to be seen as ignorant and poor people adopting terror out of desperation. We are poets and chess players, not gunmen."

Tonight Suleyman was so bored that he was soliciting suggestions: "It would be wonderful to have a nuclear bomb, but while we are waiting, what should we do?"

Mustafa and Trafik argued for what they knew how to engineer— more bombings of synagogues and government buildings— but Suleyman shot down that suggestion: "I'd like a vacation from small-scale bombings. They're the same old same old, as my classmates at the University of Texas used to say. Interns, what do you suggest?"

Sulhaddin perked up: "How about using poisonous gas on a subway train?"

Suleyman shook his head, arguing that it was too random in its effects: "We want to show the world that terror is not anarchy, that we can be precise in dealing even with those who resist Allah."

Gurkan had been weaned on violent videos: "Let's take a hostage and film his beheading."

Suleyman stood up and began pacing: "That's a good thought. I haven't kidnapped anyone for a couple of years. But how do we rise above run-of-the-mill hostage-taking?"

The room was silent until Suleyman pulled from a bookcase a small volume with yellowed pages. "I have an idea. I have studied the work of my ancestor Abu'l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, peace be unto him. A brilliant scholar, he died in Baghdad in 1058, but first he discoursed on how to treat captured enemies. He gave four possible actions. The first of the four is to put them to death by cutting their necks."

"Yes, neck-cutting is good," Mustafa said in his high, puffy voice. "What are the others?"

"The emir also may enslave captives," Suleyman recited, almost seeming to go into a trance. "He may show favor to them and pardon them. He may ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners."

"That would be fun," Fadil said. "We'd see the captives squirm, competing for our favor."

Suleyman stroked his mustache and agreed: "This could be a pleasant vacation activity while our allies work on finding nuclear materials. We could show the world that we act thoughtfully, in accordance with our history."

He paused in contemplation, and the room was again silent until Suleyman clapped his hands and said, "Yes, let's do it. We may have to wait a while, but I would like to capture four Americans vacationing in our country and use all four of my ancestor's options."

"An elegant plan," Mustafa exulted.

Suleyman spelled out the details: "We will cut the neck of one captive. A second will be a woman to enslave so we can repay the Americans for the way they treat women. A third we will pardon, so that person will tell the world our story along with one important detail: that we are ready to ransom a fourth."

"Brilliant," Trafik coughed.

"Excellent," Suleyman smiled. "We will do our scouting and find the right group of four. We will all have a wonderful vacation."

A Valley of Betrayal Blog Tour

A Valley of Betrayal by Tricia Goyer
This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Valley Of Betrayal
(Moody Publishers - February 1, 2007)
by Tricia Goyer (fellow CFBA member, blogger, writer, and homeschooling mom!)

Tricia is a members of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. She also has a blog, It's Real Life and a parenting blog Generation NeXt.

TRICIA GOYER is the author of five novels, two nonfiction books and one children's book. She also was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Writer of the Year in 2003. In 2005, her novel Night Song, the second title in Tricia’s World War II series, won ACFW's Book of the Year for Best Long Historical Romance. In 2006, her novel Dawn of A Thousand Nights also won book of the Year for Long Historical Romance. Tricia and her husband, John, live with their family in northwestern Montana.

ABOUT THE BOOK: We are pleased to be able to review her exciting Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War, A Valley Of Betrayal

For reasons beyond her control, Sophie finds herself alone in the war-torn Spanish countryside, searching for her beloved Michael. His work as a news photographer has taken him deep into the country wracked by civil war. What was once a thriving paradise has become a battleground for Nazi-backed Franco fascist soldiers and Spanish patriots. She is caught up in the escalating events when the route to safety is blocked and fighting surrounds her.

Secrets abound in the ruined Spain. Michael is loving but elusive, especially about beautiful maria. The American who helped Sophie sneak into Spain turns up in odd places. Michael's friend Jose knows more than he tells. When reports of Michael's dissappearance reach her, Sophie is devastaed. What are her feelings for Philip, an American soldier who comes to her rescue?

Sophie must sift truth from lies as she becomes more embroiled in the war that threatens her life and breaks her heart. On her darkest night, Sophie takes refuge with a brigade of international compatriots. Among these volunteers, she pledges to make the plight of the Spanish people known around the world through the power of art.

Acclaimed author Tricia Goyer creates a riviting cast of characters against the backdrop of pre-WWII spain. Love, loss, pain, and beauty abound in A Valley Of Betrayal, the first book in her new series, Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War.