Sunday, March 02, 2008

FIRST Day Tour: Restorer's Journey

It is March FIRST,
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:

Sharon Hinck

and her book:

Restorer's Journey

Navpress Publishing Group (February 7, 2008)


Sharon Hinck holds a BA in education, and she earned
an MA in communication from Regent University in 1986. She spent ten
years as the artistic director of a Christian performing arts group,
CrossCurrent. That ministry included three short-term mission trips to Hong
Kong. She has been a church youth worker, a choreographer and ballet
teacher, a homeschool mom, a church organist, and a bookstore clerk. One
day she’ll figure out what to be when she grows up, but in the
meantime, she’s pouring her imagination into writing. Her stories focus on
characters who confront the challenges of a life of faith. She’s published
dozens of articles in magazines and book compilations, and released her
first novel, The Secret Life of
Becky Miller
(Bethany House), in 2006. In April 2007, she was named
“Writer of the Year” at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.
When she isn’t wrestling with words, Sharon enjoys speaking at
conferences and retreats. She and her family make their home in Minnesota. She
loves to hear from readers, so send a message through the portal into
her writing attic on the “Contact Sharon” page of her website, She is
also an avid blogger...visit Stories for the Hero in All of Us.

The first and second books
in The Sword of Lyric series are The Restorer and
Restorer’s Son
. The FIRST chapter shown here is from the third book, The Restorer's
. Enjoy!


Chapter One - JAKE

My mom was freaking out.

She stared out the dining room window as if major-league monsters were
hiding in the darkness beyond the glass. Give me a break. Our
neighborhood was as boring as they came. Ridgeview Drive’s square lawns and
generic houses held nothing more menacing than basketball hoops and tire
swings. Still, Mom’s back was tight, and in the shadowed reflection on
the pane, I could see her biting her lip. I didn’t know what to say to
make her feel better.

I ducked back into the kitchen and used a wet rag to wipe off the
counters. Clumps of flour turned to paste and smeared in gunky white arcs
across the surface. I shook the rag over the garbage can, the mess
raining down on the other debris we’d swept up. Broken jars of pasta and rice
filled the bag. I stomped it down, twist-tied the bag and jogged it
out to the trashcan by the garage. Usually, I hated the chore of taking
out the trash. Not tonight. Maybe if I erased the signs of our
intruders, Mom would relax a little.

So Cameron and Medea dropped a few things when they were looking for
supplies. No biggie. Why did my folks have such a problem with those two
anyway? They’d been great to me. I trudged back into the house, rubbing
my forehead. Wait. That wasn’t right. A shiver snaked through my
spine. Never mind. They were probably long gone by now.

“Kitchen’s done.” I carried the broom into the dining room, hoping Mom
had finished in there. But she was still hugging her arms and staring
out the window.

She turned and looked at the china cabinet, then squeezed her eyes shut
as if they were hurting. “Why?” she whispered.

Glass shards jutted from one cabinet door, and the other hung crooked
with wood splinters poking out. Broken china covered the floor. Mom and
Dad had been collecting those goofy teacups ever since they got

I pushed the broom against the edge of the fragments, but the chinking
sound made her wince, so I stopped.

Dad strode past with an empty garbage bag from the hall closet and
stopped to give my mom a squeeze. He nodded toward me. “Honey, Jake’s
alive. Nothing else matters. We all got back safe.” He leaned his head
against hers, and I edged toward the kitchen in case they started kissing.
For an old married couple, they were a little too free with their public
displays of affection. No guy wants to watch his parents act mushy.

But my mom didn’t look like she was in a kissing mood. She pressed her
lips together. I had a sneaking suspicion that she was more freaked out
about what had happened to my hand than our house. Like when I had
cancer as a kid. She’d gotten really stressed about the details of a
church fundraiser and cranky about everything that went wrong—stuff that
wasn’t even important. It gave her a place to be angry when she was trying
to be brave about a bigger problem.

“It’s only a piece of furniture.” Dad was doing his soothing voice.
When would he catch on that only made things worse?

“Only a piece of furniture we bought as a wedding gift to each other.”
She swiped at some wet spots on her face. “Only twenty years’ worth of
poking around garage sales and thrift stores together. Don’t tell me
what it’s only! Okay?”

“Okay.” Dad backed away from her prickles.

I made another ineffectual push with the broom. My folks didn’t argue
much, but when they did, it grated like a clutch struggling to find
third gear. Typical over-responsible firstborn, I wanted to fix it but
didn’t know how.

Mom picked up a Delft saucer, smashed beyond repair, and laid the
pieces gently into the garbage bag. Dad folded his arms and leaned against
the high back of one of the chairs. “I can fix the cabinet. That
splintered door will need to be replaced, but the other one just needs new
hinges. I can put in new glass.” His eyes always lit up when he talked
about a woodworking project. The man loved his tools.

Mom smiled at him. Her tension faded, and she got all moony-eyed, so I
ducked into the kitchen just as the doorbell rang. Thank heaven.
“Pizza’s here!” I yelled.

Dad paid the delivery guy, and I carried the cartons into the living
room. Flopping onto one end of the couch, I pried open the lid. “Hey, who
ordered green peppers? Mom, you’ve gotta quit ruining good pizza with

That made her laugh. “We’d better save a few pieces for the other
kids.” She cleared the Legos off the coffee table and handed me a napkin.

I gladly surrendered the top pizza box, along with its green pepper,
and dove into the pepperoni below. “Where is everyone?”

“Karen’s spending the night at Amanda’s—trying out her new driver’s
license. Jon and Anne are at Grandma’s. But if they see the pizza boxes
when they get home tomorrow . . . ”

I nodded. “Yep. Pure outrage. I can hear it now. ‘It’s not fair. Jake
always gets to have extra fun.’” I did a pretty good impression of the
rug rats. What would the kids think if they found out what else they had
missed? This had been the strangest Saturday the Mitchell family had
ever seen.

I popped open a can of Dr. Pepper. My third. Hey, I’d earned some extra
caffeine. “So, what do we tell the kids?”

Mom smiled and looked me up and down, probably thinking I was one of
the kids. When would it sink in that I was an adult now? I guzzled a
third of my pop and set it down with a thump. “We could tell them there was
a burglar, but then they’d want to help the police solve the case, and
they’d never stop asking questions.”

“Good point.” Mom licked sauce from her finger. “Jon and Anne would
break out the detective kit you gave them for Christmas.”

Dad tore a piece of crust from his slice of pepperoni. “If we finish
cleaning everything, I don’t think they’ll pay much attention. The
cabinet is the only obvious damage. If they ask, we’ll just say it got bumped
and fell.”

Dad wanted us to lie? So not like him. Then again, when Kieran told me
Dad wasn’t originally from our world, I realized there were a lot of
things he’d never been honest about. Now I was part of the family secret,

He rested his piece of pizza on the cardboard box and looked at Mom.
“Do we need to warn them?”

“Warn them?” She mumbled around a mouth full of melted cheese.

“In case Cameron and Medea come back.” His voice was calm, but I
suddenly had a hard time swallowing. Something cold twisted in me when he
said their names. The same cold that had numbed my bones when I’d woken up
in the attic. Why? They’d taken care of me. No, they’d threatened me.
Confusing images warred inside my brain.

“You think they’ll come back?” My baritone went up in pitch, and I
quickly took another sip of pop.

Dad didn’t answer for a moment. “It depends on why they came. If they
plan to stay in our world, we need to find them—stop them. But my guess
is that Cameron wants to return to Lyric with something from our world
that he can use there. That means they’ll be back to go through the

Mom sank deeper into the couch and looked out the living room windows.
At the curb, our family van shimmered beneath a streetlight.

They might be out there, too. They could be watching us right this

“Maybe we should call the police.” Mom’s voice sounded thin. I’d
suggested that earlier. After all, someone had broken in—well, broken out.

Dad snorted. “And tell them what?”

He had a point, but it’s not like there was a rulebook for dealing with
visitors from other universes. Unless you attended Star Trek
conventions. “So what’s your plan?” I asked.

“I’ll get extra locks tomorrow. Maybe look into an alarm system.” Dad
believed every problem could be solved with his Home Depot credit card.
He turned to me. “Can you remember more about your conversations with
Cameron? What did he ask you about? What did he seem interested in?”

A shudder moved through me, and pain began pulsing behind my eyes.

Mom gave Dad a worried glance, then rested a hand on my arm. “It’s
okay, honey. We don’t have to talk about it right now.” She smoothed my
hair back from my face.

“No problem.” I brushed her hand away, sprawled back on the couch, and
studied the ceiling. “It just seems like it was all a dream.”

“What’s the last thing you remember clearly?” Dad pulled his chair
closer and watched me.

“Braide Wood.” I closed my eyes and smiled. “It reminded me of summer
camp. And I was so tired of running and hiding in caves. I finally felt
safe. Tara fussed over me, and I taught Dustin and Aubrey how to play
soccer. It felt like home.”

I struggled to remember the rest. For some reason my memories were
tangled up, like the time I had a major fever and took too much Nyquil. Mom
and Dad waited.

“I went to see Morsal Plains with Tara. Brutal. The grain was all black
and it smelled weird. Tara told me about the attack. How Hazor
poisoned it on purpose and how Susan the Restorer led the army to protect
Braide Wood.” I squinted my eyes open and looked sideways at my mom. They’d
told me she had ridden into battle with a sword. “Unbelievable.”

Even though she was watching me with a worried pinch to her eyes, she
smiled. “I know. I lived it, and it’s hard for me to believe.”

“Anyway, I hiked back to Tara’s house, and some guys came to take me to
Cameron. He made a big fuss over me. Said it was his job to welcome
guests to the clans. Said I’d run into bad company but he’d make it up to
me. He gave me something to drink, and there was this lady. She was
amazing.” No matter how fuzzy my memories were, Medea was easy to
remember. The long curly hair, the sparkling eyes, the dress that clung to all
the right places. My cheeks heated. “I can’t remember everything we
talked about. She made me feel important, like I wasn’t just some teenage
kid. It was . . . ” I sat taller and angled away from my parents, my
jaw tightening. “She helped me realize that no one else had ever really
understood me. I wanted to become a guardian. I had an important job to

“Jake.” Dad’s voice was sharp, and I flinched. “The woman you met was a
Rhusican. They poison minds. Don’t trust everything you’re feeling
right now.”

A pulsing ache grabbed the base of my neck. I pressed the heels of my
hands against my eyes. Mom’s hand settled on my shoulder, and I
stiffened. Weird static was messing with my head.

“Jake, they used you to find the portal. She doesn’t really understand
you.” Mom’s voice was quiet and sounded far away. I felt like I was
falling away inside myself. She squeezed my shoulder. “Remember my
favorite psalm?”

I managed a tight smile. “How could I forget? You made us learn the
whole thing one summer. ‘O Lord, you have searched me and you know me…’
blah, blah, blah.”

Despite my smart aleck tone, the words took hold and some of the static
in my brain quieted.

“What’s the rest?” Dad pressed me.

What was he trying to prove? That I couldn’t think straight? I could
have told him that. I struggled to form the words.

“‘You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from
afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with
all my ways.’” Once I got started, I rattled off the verses by rote. In
some strange way, the words actually stopped the sensation of falling
away inside myself.

“Sounds like there’s someone who understands you a lot better than
Cameron and Medea. Remember that.” Dad stood up and tousled my hair. Then
he yawned. “Let’s get some sleep.”

Mom didn’t move. She was still watching me. “How’s the hand?”

I rubbed my palm. “Still fine. Weird, huh?” I held it out.

A scar, faint as a white thread, marked the skin where broken glass had
cut a deep gash an hour earlier. My lungs tightened. What did it mean?

Dad shook his head. “Come on. Bedtime.”

Mom hesitated, but then stood and gave me a quick kiss on the forehead.
“Good night, Jake. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

Oh, great. She sure loved talking. I looked at Dad. His mouth twitched.
“I’ll get us signed up for some practice space at the fencing club.”

Good. He hadn’t forgotten his promise. I couldn’t make sense of my trip
through the portal, or the sudden-healing thing, but I knew I wanted
to learn to use a sword.

My parents gathered up the pizza stuff and carried it to the kitchen,
out of sight, but not out of earshot.

“If we hide the portal stones Cameron and Medea won’t be able to go
back,” Dad said over the crinkling of a sheet of aluminum foil.

Someone slammed the fridge door shut hard enough to make the salad
dressing bottles rattle. “We don’t want them running around our world. They
don’t belong here.” Mom sounded tense.

“I know. We have to send them back. But on our terms. Without anything
that would hurt the People of the Verses. And what about Jake?”

Silence crackled, and I leaned forward from my spot on the couch.

When Mom refused to answer, Dad spoke again, so quiet I almost couldn’t
hear. “We need to keep the portal available in case he’s needed there.
But how will we know?”

Needed there? Did he really think . . .?

I waited for them to head back to their bedroom, then slipped down the
steps from the kitchen to the basement. Most of the basement was still
unfinished – except for my corner bedroom and Dad’s workbench.

I hurried into my room and shut out the world behind me. Tonight
everything looked different. The movie posters, the bookshelves, the soccer
team trophy. Smaller, foreign, unfamiliar.

I pulled a thumbtack from my bulletin board and scratched it across my
thumb. A line of blood appeared, but in a microsecond the tiny scrape
healed completely. I had assumed the healing power was some
heebie-jeebie thing that Medea had given me, or that had transferred over from my
interactions with Kieran.

But now that my head had stopped throbbing, I could put the pieces
together. Excitement stronger than caffeine zipped around my nerve endings.
My folks thought this was more than a weird effect left over from my
travels through the portal. They thought I might be the next Restorer.

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