Monday, December 22, 2008

Teen FIRST Tour: The Sword and The Flute

It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour! This is the very last Teen FIRST tour as Teen FIRST has merged with FIRST Wild Card Tours. If you wish to learn more about FIRST Wild Card, please go HERE.

and his book:

Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)


Mike Hamel is a seasoned storyteller who has honed his skill over theyears by telling tall tales to his four children. He is the author of several non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles.

Mike and his wife, Susan, live in Colorado Springs, CO. Their four children are now grown and their two grand children will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

From His Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with sixteen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed (Broadman, 2001), Executive Influence (NavPress, 2003), and Giving Back (NavPress, 2003). I also edited Serving Two Masters: Reflections on God and Profit, by Bill Pollard (Collins, 2006).

My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 34 years, Susan.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

BTW – I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, an aggressive but treatable form of cancer.

Mike's Blog, Cells Behaving Badly, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please visit the Matterhorn the Brave Website!

Product Details

List Price: 9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


Emerald Isle

Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Where Do I Go By Neta Jackson Blog Tour

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Where Do I Go?

Thomas Nelson (December 9, 2008)


Neta Jackson

As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books. In addition to writing several books about Christian community, the Jacksons have coauthored numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.

Dave and Neta live in Evanston, Illinois, where for twenty-seven years they were part of Reba Place Church, a Christian church community. They are now members of a multi-racial congregation in the Chicago area.

They're trying something new! Not just new for them, but something completely new in Christian fiction: “Parallel novels,” two stories taking place in the same time frame, same neighborhood, involving some of the same characters living through their own dramas and crises but interacting with and affecting one another … just the way it happens in real life.

It’s something that only a husband and wife writing team could pull off. While Neta has Where Do I Go?, her husband Dave has written Harry Bentley's Second Chance.


A story of seeking-and finding-God's will in unlikely places.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful. It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director-and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her. But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons. Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to? . . . I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock."

Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “Exquisite characters coupled with God's mercy and love emanate from each page.”

Publisher's Weekly adds, “Jackson's Yada Yada series has sold half a million copies, and this new offshoot series ... promises the same.... The book's dramatic ending ... leav[es] readers eager for the next installment in the series.”

To read the Prologue and first Chapter of Where Do I Go?, go HERE

Friday, December 12, 2008

Engaging Father Christmas Blog Tour

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Engaging Father Christmas

FaithWords (October 30, 2008)


Robin Jones Gunn

Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawai’i.

She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown.

As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives.

Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.


Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.

But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.

And yet...maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Engaging Father Christmas, go HERE

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quills and Promises Blog Tour

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Quills And Promises

Barbour Publishing, Inc (May 28, 2008)


Amber Miller


Hi, I'm Amber, but my friends call me Tiff, short for Tiffany, my first name. I am in my 30's, married the love of my life in July 2007, and live in beautiful Colorado just east of the Front Range of the Rockies, but I love to travel and visit new places. Ultimately, my dream is to own horses and live in a one-level rancher or log cabin nestled in the foothills of the mountains. For now, I will remain where I am and do what I love—design web sites and write.

Amber's very first book, Promises, Promises, released in February 2008. It's a historical fiction set in Delaware during the Colonial period and the Great Awakening. The other 2 books in the series are this current one, Quills And Promises (July 2008) and Deceptive Promises (December 2008). In 2009, they will be repackaged for a state set entitled Delaware Brides. She has also sold another series set in historical Michigan during the Industrial Revolution. The 3 books in that series will begin releasing in May 2009 and will be repackaged in 2010 as Michigan Brides.


-- Separated from Madison when he leaves to fight the French and Indians, Elanna Hanssen must choose between her heart and her head, especially when Madison's integrity is questioned. --

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not until thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." ~Proverbs 3:5-6

Innocence paired with wisdom beyond her years. With these traits, Elanna Hanssen unwittingly captures the attentions of Major Madison Scott. Her honest desire to understand the war fascinates him, and he resolves to get to know this perspicacious young lady better. When his military duty separates them, they begin a correspondence, cautiously baring their hearts to each other. Elanna has never known emotions like this before, but she is drawn to the integrity she sees in her major. Wh a local news reporter questions the major's credentials and activities, however, will she allow her heart or her head to rule? Can true love grow over such distance and around such obstacles?

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Quills And Promises, go HERE.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Dark Pursuit Blog Tour

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Dark Pursuit

Zondervan (December 1, 2008)


Brandilyn Collins


Brandilyn Collins is known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. She is currently working on her 20th book. For chances to win free copies of her work, join her Fan Club on Facebook. Here’s what Brandilyn has to say about why she wrote Dark Pursuit:

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost Satan’s followers, kicked out of heaven, boast about storming the gates and reclaiming their territory. Beelzebub scoffs at their boasting as merely “hatching vain empires” and suggests a different revengeful scheme: seduce mankind away from God. So Satan visits the Garden of Eden to teach humans the very thing he and his cohorts have learned to be futile—the dark pursuit of hatching their own vain empires instead of following God. He presented man with this “gift” of death, disguised as life. And man fell for it.

Upon this theme of man’s fall and spiritual blindness, I created the characters and events in Dark Pursuit. The story clips along at a fast pace, with much symbolism running underneath.


Dark Pursuit—A twisting story of murder, betrayal, and eternal choices

Novelist Darell Brooke lived for his title as King of Suspense—until an auto accident left him unable to concentrate. Two years later, reclusive and bitter, he wants one thing: to plot a new novel and regain his reputation.

Kaitlan Sering, his twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, once lived for drugs. After she stole from Darell, he cut her off. Now she’s rebuilding her life. But in Kaitlan’s town two women have been murdered, and she’s about to discover a third. She’s even more shocked to realize the culprit—her boyfriend, Craig, the police chief’s son.

Desperate, Kaitlan flees to her estranged grandfather. For over forty years, Darell Brooke has lived suspense. Surely he’ll devise a plan to trap the cunning Craig.

But can Darell’s muddled mind do it? And—if he tries—with what motivation? For Kaitlan’s plight may be the stunning answer to the elusive plot he seeks...

Read the first chapter of Dark Pursuit, HERE.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

One Perfect Day Blog Tour

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Perfect Day

FaithWords (October 22, 2008)


Lauraine Snelling


Today, Lauraine Snelling is a member of the more than Two Million Books In Print club, but when she first began, she was a mother of three teenagers with a simple dream to write “horse books for kids.”

All told, she has over 50 books published. She thinks. She’s not sure. She’d rather write them than count them. Lauraine’s work has been translated into Norwegian, Danish and German as well as produced as books on tape.

Awards have followed her dedication to “telling a good story”: the Silver Angel Award for An Untamed Land and a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart for Song of Laughter.

Helping others reach their writing dream is the reason Lauraine teaches at writer’s conferences across the country. She mentors others through book doctoring and with her humorous and playful Writing Great Fiction tape set. Lauraine also produces material on query letters and other aspects of the writing process.

Her readers clamor for more books more often and Lauraine would like to comply, if only her ever-growing flower gardens didn’t call quite so loudly over the soothing rush of the water fountains in her back yard and if the hummingbirds weren’t quite so entertaining. Lauraine and husband Wayne have two grown sons and a cockatiel named Bidley, who loves to tease their Basset Hound named Chewy.


Two mothers end up more closely connected that they could dream...and yet they are strangers to one another.

The first has two children--twins, a boy and girl, who are seniors in high school. She wants their last Christmas as a family living in the same home to be perfect, but her husband is delayed returning from a business trip abroad. And then there's an accident--a fatal one involving a drunk driver.

Meanwhile, the other mother has a daughter who needs a new heart, and so the loss of one woman becomes the miracle the other has desperately prayed for. While one mother grieves, and pulls away from her family, the other finds that even miracles aren't always easy to receive.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Perfect Day, go HERE

Monday, December 01, 2008

FIRST Tour: Leave It To Chance

It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his/her book:

Leave it to Chance
David C. Cook (May 2008)


Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

She's also a blogger! So stop by and say hi to Sherri at Creations in the Sand!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (May 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799883
ISBN-13: 978-1434799883


“A horse? Mom, what am I going to do with a horse?” Just what she and the kids did not need. Sierra Montgomery sagged back against her old kitchen counter, where afternoon sunlight dappled the white metal cabinets across from her. She pressed the phone tight against her ear, hoping she’d heard wrong, as her four-year-old son, Trevor, ate grapes at the kitchen table.

“Miss Libby wanted you to have it. I’d think you’d be delighted, what with the kids and all. You remember Sally, Miss Libby’s daughter? Well, she just called and said it was all laid out in the will. None of their family could figure out who Sierra Lassiter Montgomery was until Sally remembered me from her mom’s church. So she called and sure enough, you were my daughter.” Sierra’s mom tsked into the phone. “Well, you know how Sally is.”

Sierra hadn’t the foggiest how Sally was, or even who she was. She barely remembered Miss Libby from her Sunday school class eons ago.

“She acted pleased that her mother gave you the horse, but I could tell she was miffed. Though what Sally Owens would do with a horse, I’d like to know.” Her mom’s voice was tight and controlled as if they were discussing how to deal with black spot on her Old English roses.

“But I don’t want a horse. You, of all people, should know that after what happened when—” How could her mom even suggest she get a horse? Painful pictures of her childhood friend Molly floated through her mind.

“Honey, accidents like that don’t happen more than once in a lifetime. Besides, Miss Libby wouldn’t have owned a crazy horse.”

Sierra stared out the window where the school bus would soon release her most precious treasures. Her mom never had understood the resounding impact that summer day had made in her life.

“You really need to think of the kids and how much fun they’d have. It’s not like you’d ever be able to afford to buy them one.”

Sierra wished she were having this conversation with Elise rather than her mother. Her best friend would understand the danger she feared in horses, and in her humorous way come up with a sensible plan that would include not keeping the animal.

Her mom, on the other hand, lived life as if she were on one of those moving conveyors at the airport that people can step on to rest their feet yet keep moving toward their destination. As long as everyone kept traveling forward, she could ignore the emotional baggage dragging behind.

“I don’t understand why Miss Libby would give the horse to me.”

“You know how my bingo club visited the Somerset rest home every week? Well, Miss Libby’s been there for years and she always did comment on how horse crazy you were when she taught your Sunday school class.”

“Mom, that was a phase I went through when I was ten and found National Velvet and Black Beauty at the library. I haven’t seen Miss Libby since middle school.”

“Obviously you were special to Miss Libby. I’d think you might be a little more grateful.”

Deep breath, Sierra told herself. “I am grateful.” An errant grape rolled next to her toe. Trevor’s blond head was bent, intent on arranging the fruit like green soldiers around the edge of his plate. Sierra tossed the grape into the sink and considered how to respond to her mom. She was a dear, but sometimes the woman was like dry kindling on a hot day, and one little spark…. “I’m just not sure that owning a horse would be a wise move at this point in our lives.”

The front door slammed and Sierra felt the walls shudder with the thud. The 3:00 p.m. stampede through the house meant it was time to get off the phone and determine how to get rid of a horse before the kids found out about it.

Her mom sighed. “It’s too bad Sally won’t keep the horse at her place for you, but she said her husband wants the horse gone. He wants to fill the pasture with sheep.”

Sheep? A kitchen chair scraped over the linoleum as Trevor scooted back from the table and dashed for the living room. “Mommy’s got a horse! Mommy’s got a horse!” Wonderful. Little ears, big mouth.

Braden and Emory shot into the kitchen, bright eyes dancing in tandem. Their words tangled together in fevered excitement despite the fact that she was on the phone.

“Where is it?” Braden’s eleven-year-old grin split his face, and his dark hair was rumpled and sweat streaked, likely from a fevered game of basketball during last recess.

She held a hand up to still the questions as her mom went on about the sheep that Sally’s husband probably did not need.

“We have a horse?” Nine-year-old Emory, her blonde hair still neat in its purple headband, fluttered in front of her mom, delight and hope blooming on her face.

Despite the fear of horses building deep in Sierra’s gut, her children’s excitement was a little contagious. She wished Miss Libby had willed her a cat.

Sierra ran her hand down Emory’s soft cheek and whispered. “I’ll be off the phone in a minute, sweetie.”

“Can we ride it?” Em looked at her with elated eyes.

Braden tossed his backpack on the table. “Where are we going to keep it?”

The kids circled her, jabbering with excited questions. Sierra rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. “I gotta go, Mom. I’ve got to break some cowboy hearts.”

The kids clamored around her, Braden taking the lead with an arm draped across her shoulder. When had he gotten so big? “Do we have a horse, Mom?” He asked the question with a lopsided grin, a foreshadow of the adolescence that had been peeking through lately. The preteen in him didn’t truly believe they had a horse—he was old enough to realize the odds—but little-boy eagerness clung to his smile.

“That would be yes and a no.”

“What? Mom!” he complained.

“I was given a horse, but we’re not going to keep him.” Braden’s arm slid off her shoulder, a scowl replacing his smile. “Why not?”

“Someone gave you a horse?” Emory ignored her brother’s attitude and flashed her most persuasive grin. “Can we keep him? Please!”

Sierra smoothed her hand over the silky hair and leaned close to her daughter’s face as Emory went on. “I think we should get four horses so we each have one. We could go trail riding. Cameron’s mom has horses, and they go riding all the time as a family.”

“We’re not a family anymore,” Braden cut in. “We stopped being a family when mom divorced dad.”

A shard of pain drove into Sierra’s gut. She hadn’t had time to brace for that one. Braden’s anger at the divorce had been building like an old steam engine lately.

“That’s not fair!” Outrage darkened Emory’s features. “It’s not Mom’s fault!”

Sarcasm colored Braden’s voice. “Oh, so it’s all Dad’s fault?”

Sierra saw the confusion that swept over her daughter’s face. She was fiercely loyal to both parents and didn’t know how to defend them against each other.

Sierra spoke in a firm tone. “Braden, that’s enough!”

He scowled at her again. “Whatever.”

Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.

“Guys, we’re not going to play the blame game. We have plenty to be thankful for, and that’s what is important.”

Braden’s attitude kept pouring it on. “Boy, and we have so much. Spaghetti for dinner every other night.”

“So what, Braden-Maden!” Emory made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.

“No more fighting or you two can go to your rooms.” Her kids were not perfect, but they used to like each other. Something had changed. Her gut said it was her ex-husband, Michael, but what if she was falling into the whole “blame the dad” thing herself? What if she was really the problem? Two weeks without a job had added stress and worry. Had she stopped hugging them as often in between scouring the want ads and trying to manage a home and bills?

“Mom?” There was a quaver in Trevor’s soft voice.

“Yes, honey?” Sierra gave him a gentle smile.

“Can we keep the horse?”

Emory’s blue gaze darted to meet hers, a plea in them. Braden sat with his arms crossed over his chest, but his ears had pricked up.

Sierra looked at them, wanting them to understand and knowing they wouldn’t. “None of us know how to handle or care for a horse, so it wouldn’t be safe to keep him.”

Emory’s face lit up. “Cameron’s mom could teach us.”

“Honey, it’s not that simple. We can’t afford an animal that big. He probably eats as much in groceries as we do, and it would be very expensive to rent a place for him to live.”

“I could mow yards.” Anger at his sister forgotten, Braden turned a hopeful face to her. “We could help out.”

Emory jumped onto the working bandwagon. “Yeah. I could do laundry or something for the neighbors.”

Braden drilled his sister a look that said idiot idea but didn’t say anything.

Trevor bounced in his chair, eager to be a part of keeping the horse. “I could wash cars.”

“Those are great ideas, but they won’t bring in quite enough, especially since it’s getting too cold to mow lawns or wash cars.”

“You just don’t want to keep the horse, Mom,” Braden said. “I get it. End of story.”

“Honey, I’d love for you to have a horse, but when I was young I had a friend—”

Emory spoke in a helpful tone. “We know. Grandma told us about the accident.”

They knew? Wasn’t the story hers to share? “When did Grandma tell you?”

Braden’s voice took on a breezy air. “I don’t know. A while ago. Come on, Mom. We’re not going to do something dumb like your friend did.”

Defensiveness rose inside. “She didn’t do anything dumb. It was the horse that—”

“So because something bad happened to one person, your kids can never do anything fun for the rest of their lives.”

Sierra gave him a look. “Or you learn from your mistakes and help your kids to do the same.”

Braden rolled his eyes at her.

Worry drew lines across her daughter’s forehead. “Are you going to sell him?”

“Yes, Em. So we’re not going to discuss this anymore. You and Braden have homework to do.” At the chorus of groans she held her hands up. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to eat Grandma’s apple pie all by myself.”

Braden grabbed his backpack and slowly dragged it across the floor toward the stairs, annoyance in his voice. “We’re going.” Emory trotted past him up the stairs.

Trevor remained behind, one arm wrapped around her thigh. “I don’t have any homework.”

She squatted and pulled him in for a hug. “Nope, you sure don’t, bud.”

He leaned back. “Do I get a horse?”

Sierra distracted him by inching her fingers up his ribs. “What, Trev?”

He tried to talk around his giggles. “Do I get—Mom!” Her fingers found the tickle spots under his arms and he laughed, his eyes squinted shut and mouth opened wide. She found all his giggle spots, then turned on Sesame Street as the second distraction. Good old Bert and Ernie.

Now what? She had roughly forty-five minutes to figure out how she was going to get rid of a horse and not be a complete zero in her kids’ eyes.

She eyed the phone and made her next move. Five minutes later a white Mazda whipped into her driveway. Sierra hurried out the front door waving her arms to stop Elise before she could start her ritual honking for the kids.

Wide eyed, her platinum blonde friend stared, one long plum-colored nail hovering above the “ooga” horn on the dash. “What?”

“I don’t want the kids to know you’re here.”

Wicked delight spread across her perfectly made-up face. Light plum shadow matched her nails. Tomorrow, both eye shadow and nails could be green. “Let me guess! Mr. Pellum asked you out!”

“Nooooo!” Mr. Pellum was a teacher Sierra and Elise had had a crush on in seventh grade.

“Ummm … you robbed a bank and need me to watch the kids while you fly to Tahiti?”

Sierra gave her a mock-serious look. “Done?”

Elise tilted her head. “Can I get out of the car?”

Sierra glanced toward the house. All was still silent. “Yes, you may.”

Deadpan, Elise nodded and opened the door. “Then I’m done for now.” Her plump body, swathed in a creamy suit with a purple scarf draped across one shoulder, rose gracefully from the small two-seater.

Sierra closed the door for her, then leaned against it. Elise had a way of removing the extraneous and reducing a problem down to the bare essentials. “Elise, I’m in a predicament.”

“Hon, I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

Sierra shook her head. “I don’t think you could have seen this one coming even with your crystal ball.”

Elise gave her the spinster teacher look through narrowed eyes. “I don’t think I like the implications of that.”

Sierra held her hands out. “You are the queen of mind-reading, according to my children.”

Elise chuckled. “It’s a good thing I was just headed out for a latte break when you called. Now what’s the big emergency?” She owned a high-end clothing store for plus-sized women in downtown Eugene.

“A horse.”

Elise glanced around as if one or two might be lurking behind a tree.

“A herd of them or just one?”

“One. Full-sized. Living and breathing.”

“I believe I’m missing some pieces here. Is it moving in with you? Holding one of the children hostage? What?”

Sierra breathed out a slight chuckle and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “You’re not going to believe this, but I inherited it.”

Her friend’s eyes grew wide, emphasizing the lushly mascaraed lashes. “Like someone died and gave you their horse?”

Sierra nodded, raising her brows. “And the kids want to keep him.”

Furrows emerged across Elise’s forehead. “Who is the idiot that told them about the horse?”

Sierra tilted her head with a look that only best friends could give each other.

Elise’s perfectly painted lips smirked. “Moving along, then. Why don’t you keep it? The kids would love it. Heaven knows they deserve it.” She clapped her hands together. “Oh, oh! They could get into 4-H, and Braden could learn to barrel race. That kid would think he’d won the jackpot. Emory and Trevor could get a pig or some of those show roosters.”

Sierra let the idea machine wind down. “I don’t think so.”

“Angora rabbits?”

“No farm animals.”

Elise’s mouth perked into humorous pout. “Sierra, you’re such a spoilsport. Those kids need a pet.”

“A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.”

Diva Elise took the stage, hands on her ample hips. “Don’t tell me you didn’t want a horse growing up. Remember, I was the one who had to sit and watch National Velvet with you time ad nauseam. You’ve said yourself that Braden needs something to take his mind off the problems he’s having at school and with his dad.”

Guilt, a wheelbarrow load of it, dumped on Sierra. “You are supposed to be helping me, Elise, not making it worse. I want to get rid of this horse and …” her eyes dodged away from her friend, “… you know.”

“Mmm-hmm. And still look like Super Mom in your children’s eyes.”

Sierra nodded, but couldn’t find the nerve to say yes.

“Sierra Montgomery, those children have been to heck and back in the last couple years and you’re willing to deny them the pleasure of owning their own free horse because … because of what?”

Sierra stared at the ground for a moment, feeling a tangle of emotions rise within. She let her eyes rest on Elise’s and said quietly, “Fear? Terror? Hysteria?”

A look of puzzlement, then understanding settled on Elise’s face, smoothing away the annoyance. “Molly.”

Sierra nodded. “I won’t put my children in that kind of danger.”

Elise leaned forward and grabbed Sierra’s hands, holding them tight. “Oh, hon. That was a long time ago. Don’t let your life be ruled by the what-ifs. There’s a lot of living left to do. And your kids need to see you taking life by storm, taking chances, not hiding in the shadows.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You were voted most likely to parachute off the Empire State Building.”

Elise gave her a cheeky grin, both dimples winking at her. “We could do it tandem!”

“If you see me jump off the Empire State Building you’ll know my lobotomy was successful, because there is no way in this lifetime you’ll catch this body leaving good sense behind!” Sierra heard the words come from her own mouth and stared at her friend in wonder. “Oh, my gosh. That was so my mom.”

“It was bound to happen, hon.”

Was she serious? “You think I’m turning into her?” Sierra brought a hand to her throat and quickly dropped it. How many times had she seen her mom use the same gesture?

Elise laughed. “You need to stop fretting and just live. We all turn out like our mothers in some respect.”

“All except you. You’re nothing like Vivian.”

“Other than the drinking, smoking, and carousing, I’m exactly like her.”

Sierra lifted a brow. Her mom had rarely let her go to Elise’s house when they were growing up—and for good reason. Elise struck a pose like a fashion model. “Okay, I’m the anti-Vivian.” She gave Sierra a soft smile. “All funnin’ aside, I really think you should keep the horse.”

“I’m not keeping the horse. And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.” Sierra took a settling breath and stared at the tree over Elise’s shoulder.

“Michael still hasn’t paid?”

Elise knew more about her finances than her mom did. “He paid, but the check bounced again. So now he’s two months behind in child support.”

“Have you heard if Pollan’s is rehiring?”

“They’re not.” Jarrett’s, the local grocery store where she worked for the three years since the divorce had been recently bought out by Pollan’s. They had laid off the majority of the checkers with the possibility of rehiring some.

Elise cringed as if she was bracing herself for a blow. “And the unemployment fiasco?”

Sierra shut her eyes. “Mr. Jarrett did not pay into our unemployment insurance, so there is no benefit for us to draw from. Yes, it was illegal, and yes he will pay, but it may take months, if not years, for various lawyers and judges to beat it out of him.” She gave Elise a tired smile. “That’s the version minus all the legalese.”

“So the layoffs are final, no unemployment bennies, and you’re out of a job.”

“Momentarily. The résumé has been dusted off and polished.” She gave a wry grin.

“I wish I could hire you at Deluxe Couture, but I promised Nora fulltime work. And besides, your cute little buns would drive my clientele away.”

Sierra waved a hand over her jeans and sweatshirt. “Your clientele would outshine me any day.”

“You sell yourself far too short.” Elise glanced at the hefty rhinestone encrusted watch on her wrist. “Anything else I can do for you? Help the kids with their homework? Babysit while you sweep some tall, dark, handsome man off his feet?”

Sierra laughed. “And where is this dream man going to come from?”

Elise gave a breezy wave of her hand and opened the car door. “Oh, he’ll turn up. You’re too cute to stay single. I actually have someone in mind. Pavo Marcello. He’s a new sales rep from one of my favorite lines. I’ll see if he’s free Friday night. You aren’t doing anything, are you?”

“Hold on!” Sierra stepped in front of the car door to keep her friend from leaving. “First, I’m not looking. Second, given my history, I’m not the best judge of character. I’ve already struck out once in the man department.” She pointed to her face with both index fingers. “Not anxious to try again. Third, you just told me I’m turning into my mom, which makes me definitely not dating material.”

A twist of Elise’s lips signaled a thought. “You know, now that I think about it, I believe he has a boyfriend.” She shook her head and lowered herself into the car. “We’ll keep looking. I’m sure Sir Knight will turn up.”

Sierra shut the car door and grinned down at her friend. “And what about finding your knight?”

Elise gave her a bright smile. “Mr. Pellum is already taken. You really need to find a way to keep that horse; it’ll be your first noble sacrifice.”


The little car backed up, and Elise spoke over the windshield. “The others don’t count.”

Sierra stared at the retreating car. There was no way she was keeping that horse.

After dinner, Sierra crept into Braden’s room. He sat on the bed intent on the Game Boy in his lap, the tinny sound of hard rock bleeding out of his earphones. She waved a hand and he glanced up. She waited and with a look of preteen exasperation he finally pulled the headphones to his shoulders.

“What, Mom?”

“I just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night.” His hands started to readjust the music back into position.

“I looked at your homework.”

“You got into my backpack? Isn’t that like against the law or something? You’re always telling us not to get into your stuff.”

She crossed her arms. Frustration and worry gnawed at her. “You lied to me about doing your assignment. Why, honey?”

He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.

She took one step and snatched the game from his hands.


“I want some respect when I talk to you, Braden.”

His chin sank toward his chest, his gaze fixed on his bed, his voice low. “I didn’t want to do it.”

She sat next to him, her voice soft. “Is it too hard?”

He shrugged. “It gives me a headache when I work on it.”

“Braden, if you need help, I’d be happy to work with you after school.”

He stared at his knees and picked at a loose string of cotton on his pajama bottoms.

“I got a phone call from Mrs. Hamison today.”

His body came alert, though he didn’t look at her.

“She said you’re flunking most of your subjects, and she hasn’t seen any homework from you since school started a month ago.”

He glanced up, his jaw belligerent, but with fear in his eyes.

“What’s going on? I know school isn’t easy, but you’ve never given up before.”

“Middle school’s harder.”

She wanted to touch him, to brush the hair off his forehead and snuggle him close the way she used to when he was small. Back when a hug and a treat shared over the kitchen table was enough to bring the sparkle back to her son. “She thinks we should have your vision tested.”


“She’s noticed some things in class and thinks it might be helpful.”

He shrugged again. “Can I have my game back?”

“You lied to me, son. Again.”


“You break trust every time you choose to be dishonest. Is that what you want?”

His voice was sullen and he stared at his comforter. “No.”

She touched his leg. “What’s bothering you, honey?”

“I dunno. Can I have my game back?”

She stood up. There was a time for talking and this obviously wasn’t it. “You can have it tomorrow.”

But would tomorrow be any different?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

FIRST Tour: 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Publisher: FaithWords; Lrg edition (November 12, 2008)


JOYCE MEYER is one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. A #1 New York Times bestselling author, she has written more than seventy inspirational books, including The Confident Woman, Look Great, Feel Great, and the entire Battlefield of the Mindfamily of books. She has also released thousands of audio teachings as well as a complete video library. Joyce's Enjoying Everyday Life® radio and television programs are broadcast around the world, and she travels extensively conducting conferences. Joyce and her husband, Dave, are the parents of four grown children and make their home in St. Louis, Missouri.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99

Paperback: 240 pages

Publisher: FaithWords; Lrg edition (November 12, 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0446509396

ISBN-13: 978-0446509398



Everyone has them: those days where nothing seems to get done, except maybe what you’ve added to your already lengthy to-do list. Are you tired most of the time? Are you spent? Do you find yourself wish- ing for a better day—a simpler day? Too many things compete for your limited resources of attention, energy, and time. You may be suffocat- ing and not even know it. If you feel like this, you’re not alone.

Most people today live complicated lives that leave them frustrated and confused, weary and worn out. But I have good news: your life does not have to be that way. You can choose a life of simplicity, fruitfulness, fulfillment, peace, and joy. I want to warn you, however, unless you are determined not to, you will do what everyone else does. You will get sucked up in the system and spend your life wishing things were different, never realizing you are, in fact, the only one who can change things. Unless we are resolute and remain undaunted in our quest for simplicity, we are destined for complication and frustration.

I recall a time when I was complaining to God about my schedule being absolutely insane. How could anyone be expected to do all I had in front of me? Then the realization hit me that I was the one who made my schedule and nobody could change it but me. You can spend your lives wishing things were different, but wishing won’t change anything. Smart decision making and decisive action is what changes things. If you picked up this book looking for change, are you willing to make a decision and follow it up with action?

I wasted many years hoping life would change and things would calm down until I finally realized life itself doesn’t change; in fact, it has the potential to get worse. I understood my only real option was to change my approach to life. I had to say no to another day of rushing around and feeling frustrated. I didn’t want the doctor giving me another pre- scription to mask another symptom of the real problem—stress.

In my search for simplicity, I have come to believe life can never be simple unless I learn to approach all things simply. It is my attitude toward each event in life that determines how easy or complex each situation will be. Perhaps life is complicated because people are compli- cated. Is it possible that life is not complicated, but rather, individuals complicate life in the way they approach it?

I discovered it wasn’t really life or circumstances or other people as much as it was me that needed to change. My problem wasn’t the problem—I was the problem! When you spend your life in frustration trying to change the world and everyone in it, you fail to realize it could be you just need to change your approach to life. It can be very easy for someone to live an entire lifetime and never entertain the notion that the way they do things is the real problem.

Have you ever attempted to have friends over for what you initially intended to be a simple afternoon of food, fellowship, and fun, but somehow, it turned into a complicated nightmare? I remember those days vividly. I’d be at church on Sunday and, without much forethought, invite three couples over for the following Sunday to a barbecue. My initial thought was hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, baked beans, potato chips, and iced tea. My motive was fellowship and fun, but by the time the guests arrived, I didn’t even want them there. Fun was not going to happen, at least not for me. Why? I turned my simple get- together into a nightmare of preparation, expensive food, and fourteen people instead of the original six. My complicated approach to life and my complicated thought process convinced me hot dogs and hamburg- ers weren’t nice enough so I bought steaks we could not afford. My potato chips turned into a huge bowl of homemade potato salad. The simple baked beans became four side dishes I labored over.

Insecure and wanting to impress everyone, I had to spend the week cleaning and getting everything in the house to the point where I thought it would be impressive. Of course, the lawn chairs were old, so I bought new ones. I got angry at Dave because I thought he wasn’t help- ing me enough, and by the time our friends arrived, I resented them, wished they hadn’t come, and had a miserable day of pretending to be the happy hostess when in reality I was frustrated and miserable.

I could not figure out why I wasn’t able to enjoy much of anything in life until God revealed to me I was killing my joy with complication. For years, I prayed God would change the people and circumstances around me when, in reality, He wanted to change me and my approach to life. He wanted me to simplify so, ultimately, He could be glorified.

Let me share with you 100 ways to approach living that can simplify your life and, in turn, release and increase your joy. I believe they will dramatically improve the quality of your everyday experience if you incorporate them into the way you do things. Jesus said He came so we might have and enjoy our life in abundance (see John 10:10). His prin- ciples are simple. Faith is simple! Trusting God is simple! A childlike approach to Him is simple! The plan of salvation is simple!

Jesus offers us a “new way of living,” and I believe it is a simple, yet powerful way that enables us to enjoy everyday life. Are you ready to simplify your life? Are you ready to say good-bye to the complexities you’ve allowed to take over? Let’s get started.

Do One Thing at a Time

The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything elseówe are the busiest people in the world.


Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].

—Hebrews 12:2

When we do things without truly focusing our minds on them, we immediately decrease our strength to do the work before us and do it well. By putting our hands to one thing and our mind to another, we divide the muscle behind our abilities and we make the task much more difficult. It’s like removing an egg yolk from the egg white—both can be used separately but the result isn’t as effective (or tasty) as it would be if we leave the egg whole. However, by directing all of our faculties to the one thing we are doing on a particular day, at that hour, at that moment, we find it much easier to do. The ability to concentrate and stay focused can only come from discipline.

The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6 to be anxious for nothing. Anxious people are always trying to live ahead of where they currently are. They spend today trying to figure out tomorrow and the result is the loss of simplicity. God expects us to trust Him with tomorrow just as He instructed the Israelites to do when they crossed the barren wil- derness, pressing toward the Promised Land.

Practice living one day at a time; give yourself—your thoughts, your conversation, your energies, every part of you—to the day at hand.

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life

1. Develop an ability to give yourself to what you are doing. You will sense an awareness enabling you to enjoy the current activity, instead of going through each day in a blur of activity and confusing thoughts which leave you drained and exhausted.

Do you fear you will not accomplish as much if you try to live this way? It’s true you may not do as much, but you will also enjoy what you do a whole lot more. One key to simplicity is realizing that quality is far superior to quantity.

FIRST Wild Card: In Charge: Finding the Leader Within You

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

In Charge: Finding the Leader Within You

FaithWords (November 10, 2008)


Myles Munroe is the founder of the Bahamas Faith Ministries, a network of outreaches and churches headquartered in Nassau, Bahamas. He is a gifted orator and speaks to audiences around the world as both a preacher in church and parachurch settings and as a motivational speaker at large business gatherings and for other non-church organizations. He's authored more than a half-dozen books.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (November 10, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446580465
ISBN-13: 978-0446580465


Chapter 1

“I’m In Charge”: The Battery and the Wire

Who’s Got the Power?

“The value in each human is the gift they were born to deliver to humanity”

Which one of these is the most important part of a car: the battery or the terminal wire? You’ve probably never heard of the little red wire that connects the battery to the rest of the engine in the car. If you’re like most people you will say, “The battery. It has the power.”

Your car has about 60,000 parts. The battery says, “I’m in charge of all of them. Nothing starts without me. I’m the battery. I have the power. Power! Power! Power! I’m the one who starts everything. Nothing starts until I arrive. I’m the power. I’ve got the power to start the engine.”

Does that sound like some people you know?

Well, if the battery is the most important part of the car, let’s disconnect the wire. The battery costs about $150. The little red wire missing from the car costs about $10. You have 59,999 working parts and only a $10 wire missing. Without it, the car will not start. Your car may be worth $40,000, $50,000 or $100,000, but it can be immobilized by this $10 wire. You want to go somewhere. You have something to do! The car says, “I’m ready, but there’s a little $10 wire missing.”

The battery says, “I’ve got the power.”

A spark plug says, “I’ve got the fire.”

“The engine says, “I run the car!”

That little wire is very quiet. He does not have to say, “You need me. You can’t start without me.” All the other parts soon realize it, and they say, “Go find the wire.” The terminal wire was created to transmit electrical current from the battery to the generator and to the engine to ignite the spark plugs that provide the fire to turn the pistons and turn the engine over. In essence, the little terminal wire was designed to be the “leader” in the area of electrical transmission. In the domain of the terminal wire, the terminal wire is in charge. It might be just a little wire, but it could shut down the engine.

If that spot is empty, the car shuts down.

Each one of the car’s parts is a leader. A spark plug can never be a battery. A battery can never be a manifold. A manifold can never be a generator. Therefore, in the domain of the battery, the battery is in charge. It is unique because only it can be the battery — no matter how jealous the battery or the spark plug gets, no matter how much the steering wheel wishes to be a battery.

Each part is important. Every component of the car was designed to lead in a specific area and to serve a purpose or function in the context of the whole. Each one is a leader!

This concept of leadership contradicts the philosophy that leadership is reserved for a small, elite group of individuals “chosen by providence” and entitled to lead the masses of incapable subordinates in need of guidance by those of superior status. It is a direct challenge to what I was taught in the colonial experience of my childhood.

My view of leadership is this: each of us has an inherent gift and must serve that gift to the world. You are a leader. You have power. Your gift is your power. You are in charge in your area of gifting, your domain. You have a leadership spot to fill and a function to carry out. Your gift determines that spot and that function. Just as the value of the terminal wire is determined not by size or cost but by function, your value is not determined by anything but your gift. Someone needs your gift, and you must serve it to the world. You also need the gifts others bear to live.

So who’s in charge? You are! Who’s got the power? Everyone of us.

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Enoch by Alton Gansky

It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


Realms (October 2, 2008)


Alton Gansky is the author of twenty-one published novels and six nonfiction works. He has been a Christie Award finalist (A Ship Possessed) and an Angel Award winner (Terminal Justice). He holds a BA and MA in biblical studies and has served as senior pastor for three Baptist churches in California, with a total of over twenty years in pulpit ministry. He and his wife live in the High Desert area of Southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 307 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 2, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159979344X
ISBN-13: 978-1599793443


He first thought of his feet.

It seemed an odd first thought, but there it was. His gaze drifted to a pair of soft-topped shoes, each with a symbol stitched to the side.

"N." He wondered why anyone would stitch a letter on footwear.

He raised a foot, then wiggled it. The shoe felt good. He dug a toe in the sandy dirt, then raised his head. A field surrounded him. No crops, no buildings, no people. Just a wide expanse of rugged scrub that shivered in the cold wind.

A full-circle turn revealed nothing but the same: miles of empty land. He blinked against the wind and the bits of dirt and dust it carried. To the west the sun lowered itself to the horizon. In the opposite direction, darkness crawled up the sky, keeping pace as if the descending orb pulled a curtain of night behind it.

Turning to face the sun again, he saw a break in the expanse of near-barren ground. At its edge ran a thin fence. He moved toward it, amused at the soft crunch the earth made with each step of his N-shoes.

Something scampered to his right. A covey of quail sprinted away and then took to the air, flying a short distance before making contact with the earth again. The sight made him smile.

Henick wrapped his arms around himself to ward off the chilling breeze. The material of his multicolored shirt felt soft against his arms and palms. He kept his gaze down, protecting his eyes from the sun's glare and looking up only long enough to get his bearings and check for holes or rocks that might cause him to stumble.

The fence was a simple series of metal stakes supporting four strands of metal wire punctuated with evenly spaced barbs. He extended a finger, touched one of the points, and frowned. The knife-sharp tip drew a drop of blood. He stuck the offended finger in his mouth. A quick scan of the fence's length revealed no gate.

A short distance from the fence ran a wide, smooth, black surface with a series of white dashes down the middle. He marveled at its unerring straightness.

He returned his attention to the fence. He wanted to be on the other side but preferred to arrive there with skin and clothing intact. Placing a hand on the top strand, he pushed down. The metal wire moved, but not enough to make straddling the thing acceptable. He tried again, this time using both hands. The wire fence gave more but still too little.

Henick decided on a different approach. He stepped to the nearest metal upright and tested it. It looked old, as if it had spent a lifetime stuck in that one spot. Seizing it with both hands and careful to avoid the stinging wire, he shook the thin metal pole. It wiggled. He leaned into it and then pulled back, repeating the motion twenty or thirty times. The metal felt cold against his bare hands, and gritty rust tinted his flesh.

When he had worked the pole loose, he lifted its base from the ground, then moved to the next upright and reenacted the procedure. With two posts loose, Henick could step across the barrier without injury.

Once on the other side, he replaced the posts, stomping the surrounding dirt with his foot until the soil was as compact as he could make it. In time, weather would reseal the posts to their original strength.

The exertion had warmed him enough to raise a film of perspiration on his brow and beneath the black hair that hung to his shoulders. The breeze found each moist area and chilled it. He could expect a cold night.

Stepping to the middle of the black path, he bent and touched the surface. It appeared smooth but felt coarse beneath his fingers. The black material radiated gentle warmth. He straightened and looked up and down the long road. It seemed to have no end in either direction. Deciding that one direction was as good as the other, Henick began to walk, choosing his course so the wind would be at his back and not in his face.

When the last of the sun's disk fell beneath the horizon, Henick had made two or three miles. He passed the time by counting the white dashes in the middle of the strange path or wondering about the letter N on his shoes. He liked the shoes; they made walking easier.

A quarter moon replaced the sun in the sky but offered little light. Soon the final light would follow its source below the distant horizon. If he had remained in the open field, he would have had to stop his journey. Walking over uncertain and irregular terrain with no light would be foolish, but the hard path with its white lines made it possible for him to continue.

Just before the sun said its final good-bye, Henick saw a black and white sign with a puzzling, irregular shape and the words Ranch Road 1232. Sometime later he saw a sign that read Don't Mess with Texas.

The air moved from chilly to cold, but the breeze had settled.

Henick kept moving.

Lights and a rumble approached from behind. The light split the darkness and gave Henick a shadow that stretched impossibly long before him. He stopped and turned, raising a hand to shield his eyes against the glare.

The roar grew louder. The lights neared.

A sudden blaring assaulted his ears, but Henick stood his ground.

"What are you? Nuts?"

The voice came from behind the glare. A large metal device pulled alongside. The words pickup truck entered Henick's mind.

The vehicle stopped. "Have you plumb lost your mind, boy? I coulda run you down and not even known I hit ya. What are you thinking?"

In the dim light, Henick could see two people seated in the truck: a man in his sixties and a woman of the same age.

"Go easy on him, Jake. He looks confused. Maybe he's lost." The woman's voice rode on tones of kindness.

"That it, boy? You lost?"

"I am just walking," Henick said.

"In the dark? Where you headed?"

Henick thought for a moment. "That way." He pointed down the long stretch of road.

"Ain't nuthin' that way but Blink, and there ain't much reason for going there unless that's your home. I'm guessin' it ain't. Pretty small town; I think I'd have seen you before."

"I don't live there."

The man the woman called Jake exited the truck and eyed Henick. "It's a bit cold to be out in nuthin' but blue jeans and a flannel shirt. It's supposed to drop into the forties tonight."

"It is true. I am cold."

"Give him a ride, Jake." The woman had slid closer to the driver side door. "We can't leave him out here. He's liable to step in some pothole and break a leg."

"More likely he'd step on a rattler. They like the warm asphalt."

"Either way, Jake, we can't leave the man out here."

"All right, all right, just keep your shoes on." Jake looked at Henick. "Turn around."

Henick raised an eyebrow.

"Turn around, boy. I jus' wanna make sure you ain't packin'."


"Totin' a gun. You sure you haven't wandered off from some kinda home for the slow?"


"All right, Eleanor, I don't mean no disrespect." He motioned for Henick to turn in place. Henick did. "OK, here's the deal. I'll give you a ride, but that's all. Me and the wife were going into town for a meal. Friday night is our evening out. Been doing that for thirty-five years."

"I would like a ride."

"Yeah, well, don't have no room for you up front, so you'll have to ride in the back. I got some blankets to keep the wind off you. It's the best I can offer."

"Thank you." Henick climbed into the bed of the truck and leaned against the cab.

"Blankets are behind my seat. I'll get 'em."

A few moments later, Henick, snug in two wool blankets, turned his face heavenward, gazed at the stars, and wondered what a "Texas" was.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)


Ginger Garrett is the critically acclaimed author of Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther, which was recognized as one of the top five novels of 2006 by the ECPA, and Dark Hour. An expert in ancient women's history, Ginger creates novels and nonfiction resources that explore the lives of historical women.

On September 11, Ginger's non-fiction book, Beauty Secrets of the Bible, based on the historical research that began in her work on Chosen was released. The book explores the connections between beauty and spirituality, offering women both historical insights and scientific proofs that reveal powerful, natural beauty secrets.

A frequent radio guest on stations across the country, including NPR and Billy Graham's The Hour of Decision, Ginger is also a popular television guest. Her appearances include Harvest Television, Friends & Neighbors, and Babbie's House. Ginger frequently serves as a co-host on the inspirational cable program Deeper Living.

In 2007, Ginger was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award for her novel Dark Hour. When she's not writing, you may spy Ginger hunting for vintage jewelry at thrift stores, running (slowly) in 5k and 10k races, or just trying to chase down one of her errant sheepdogs. A native Texan, she now resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Paperback: 311 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 1st edition (September 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781448875
ISBN-13: 978-0781448871


And Job said unto God:

I admit I once lived by rumors of you;

now I have it all firsthand…

I’ll never again live

on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.

Job 42, The Message


Tomorrow, someone else will die in my bed.

Someone died in it last month, which is how it came to be called mine.

The infernal clock moved confidently towards 1 a.m., and I turned my head to look at the window. The window of this room is a miserly gesture from the contractors, producing more fog than visage. I watched the gold orbs—the lamps on the lawn of the hospice sputtering off and on in the darkness—that dotted the fogged glass.

That was the last moment I lived as an iver, one whose eyes are veiled.

One orb did not sputter but moved, gliding between the others, moving closer to the window, growing larger and brighter until the light consumed the entire view. I winced from the searing glare and tried to shield my eyes, but the IV line pulled taut. Wrestling with the line to get some slack, I saw the next movement out of the corner of my eye. I bit down hard on my tongue, my body jerking in reflex, and felt the warm blood run back to my throat.

Outside, a hand wiped the fog away from the glass, and I watched the water beads running down the inside of my window. There was no searing light, only this mammoth hand with deep creases in the palms wiping down the window until we both could see each other. A man’s face was against the glass, but no breath fogged his vision. He was a giant, grim man, with an earring in one ear and dark glasses, and he was staring in at me. Even through the morphine, fear snaked along my arms, biting into my stomach, constricting around my throat. I tried to scream, but I could only gulp air and heave little gasps. His expression did not change as he lifted his hands, curling them into fists. I flinched at the last moment, thinking him to be Death, expecting to receive the blow and die.

Then I grew suddenly warm, like the feeling you get stepping out from an old, dark city library into the busy street and a warm spring sun.

Death didn’t even hurt, I rejoiced. I could slip into it like I slipped onto that street, eyes down, my thoughts my own, and simply turn a corner and be gone. I lifted my fingers to beckon him. Yes, I thought. I saw the beautiful Rolex on my birdlike wrist, and saw that it had stopped. It is time.

When I looked back up, he was beside me, staring down, not speaking. I wasn’t dead. His frame was monstrously large, hitting what must be seven feet tall, with a width of muscle strapped across it that was inhuman. As he watched me, his chest didn’t move, and his nostrils didn’t flare, but heat and warm breath radiated from him. When he laid his hands across my eyes, I was too scared to move my head away. His palms covered most of my face, and a sharp buzzing drilled into every pore. He began to move his hands elsewhere, touching and bringing to life every splintered inch of my body. When he got to the cancer, with one swollen lymph node visible even through my stained blue gown, he rested his hands there until the swelling sighed and he swept it away with his hand.

“Wait!” I screamed.

I didn’t want to live. I hadn’t known that was going to be an option. I deserved to be damned. To return to my life was too much to ask of me. I was finished.

“You’ll still be dead by morning,” he reassured me. His voice was deep and clean, no tell-tale dialect or inflection. Taking off his glasses, I saw he had enormous gold eyes, with a black pinhole in the center that stayed round and cold. There was no white in them at all, and they were rimmed all the way around the outside with black. I stared at them, trying to remember where I had seen eyes like this. It was years ago, this much I remembered.

I had to shake myself back to the moment. Clearly, morphine was not setting well with me tonight. I wanted to die in peace. That’s what I paid these extravagant sums for. My hand moved to the nurses’ call button. Mariskka was just down the hall, waiting for her moment to steal my watch. I knew she’d come running.

He grabbed my hand and the shock seared like a hot iron. Crying out, I shook him off and clutched my hand between my breasts, doing my best to sit up with my atrophied stomach muscles and tangled IV.

He leaned in. “I have something for you.”


He leaned in closer. “A second chance.”

Second chances were not my forte. As the most celebrated editor in New York City, I had made a killing. I loved the words that trembling writers slid across my desk, those little black flecks that could destroy their life’s dream or launch a career. I bled red ink over every page, slashing words, cutting lines. No one understood how beautiful they were to me, why I tormented the best writers, always pushing them to bring me more. The crueler I was to the best of them, the more they loved me, like flagellants worshipping me as the master of their order. Only at the end, lying here facing my own death, did I understand why. They embraced the pain, thinking it birthed something greater than themselves. I saw how pitifully wrong they were. There was only pain. This is why I was ready to die. When you finish the last chapter and close the book, there is nothing but pain. It would have been better never to have written. Words betrayed me. And for that, I betrayed the best writer of them all.

“Burn any manuscripts that arrive for me,” I had ordered my nurse, Marisska. “Tell them I’m already dead. Tell them anything.”

“I’ll let you write the truth,” the man whispered.

“I’m not a writer,” I replied. My fear tumbled down into the dark place of my secrets.

“No, you’re not,” he answered. “But you’ve coveted those bestsellers, didn’t you? You knew you could do better. This is your second chance.”

It caught my attention. “How?”

“I will dictate my story to you,” he said. “Then you’ll die.”

Taking dictation? My mouth fell open. “I’m in hell, aren’t I?”

He tilted his head. “Not yet.”

I pushed away from the pillows and grabbed him. Blisters sprang up on my palms and in between my fingers, but I gritted my teeth and spat out my words. “Who are you?”

“The first writer, the Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world. The stories are forgotten here and the Day draws close. I will tell you one of my stories. You will record it.”

“Why me?”

“I like your work.”

I started laughing, the first time I had laughed since I had been brought to this wing of the hospice, where the dying are readied for death, their papers ordered, and discreet pamphlets on “end of life options” left by quiet-soled salesmen. I laughed until I was winded. He rested his hand on my chest, and I caught my breath as he spoke.

“Let’s go find Marisska.”