Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Betrayed by Jeanette Windle


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Betrayed

Tyndale House Publishers (February 6, 2008)

by

Jeanette Windle


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As the child of missionary parents, award-winning author and journalist Jeanette Windle grew up in the rural villages, jungles, and mountains of Colombia, now guerrilla hot zones. Her detailed research and writing is so realistic that it has prompted government agencies to question her to determine if she has received classified information. Currently based in Lancaster, PA, Jeanette has lived in six countries and traveled in more than twenty. She has more than a dozen books in print, including political/suspense best-seller CrossFire and the Parker Twins series.


ABOUT THE BOOK


Fires smolder endlessly below the dangerous surface of Guatemala City’s municipal dump.

Deadlier fires seethe beneath the tenuous calm of a nation recovering from brutal civil war. Anthropologist Vicki Andrews is researching Guatemala’s “garbage people” when she stumbles across a human body. Curiosity turns to horror as she uncovers no stranger, but an American environmentalist—Vicki’s only sister, Holly.

With authorities dismissing the death as another street crime, Vicki begins tracing Holly’s last steps, a pilgrimage leading from slum squalor to the breathtaking and endangered cloud forests of the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere. But every unraveled thread raises more questions. What betrayal connects Holly’s murder, the recent massacre of a Mayan village, and the long-ago deaths of Vicki’s own parents?

Nor is Vicki the only one demanding answers. Before her search reaches its startling end, the conflagration has spilled across international borders to threaten an American administration and the current war on terror. With no one turning out to be who they’d seemed, who can Vicki trust and who should she fear?

A politically relevant tale of international intrigue and God’s redemptive beauty and hope.

For Pete's Sake by Linda Windsor



This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


For Pete's Sake

Book Two of the Piper Cove Chronicles

(Avon Inspire - April 1, 2008)

by

Linda Windsor



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Maryland author Linda Windsor has written some twenty-nine historical and contemporary novels for both the secular and inspirational markets, but she is most noted for delivering “The Lift of Laughter and Spirit” in her modern inspirational romances.

A Christy finalist and winner of numerous industry awards, Linda has written for Multnomah Publishing (historical fiction and contemporary romances), Barbour Publishing (romcom novella), and Westbow Press (the Moonstruck romantic comedy trilogy). Wedding Bell Blues the first book in her new The Piper Cove Chronicles series, is featured on Avon Inspire's launch list.

In addition to writing and doing fiction-writing workshops at conferences across the country, Linda continues a music and lay speaking ministry started by her and her late husband, and she is a part-time financial analyst. She also works on “as desperately needed” home improvement projects on the 18th-century-plus house that she and her husband began restoring in 1986. Wallpaper and paint are definitely in her near future.

LINDA WINDSOR LOCAL APPEARANCES:


Saturday, April 5th, 2008
Jack's Religious Gift Shop
701 Snow Hill Road
Salisbury, MD 21804
2:00PM


Saturday, April 12, 2008
The Gospel Shop
800 South Salisbury Blvd
Salisbury, MD 21801
11:00 AM




ABOUT THE BOOK

For Pete's Sake is a remarkable story about the unlikely live between a grown-up tomboy and the millionaire next door.

Ellen Brittingham isn’t sure true live exists until she contracts to do the landscaping of the estate of the sophisticated widower next door, Adrian Sinclair. Adrian has it all—at least on the surface, He’s engaged to a beautiful woman who helped him build a successful business and he’ll soon have a mom for his troubled son Pete.

Yet, from the moment Ellen rescues a stranded Adrian on her Harley, his well-ordered world turns upside down, cracking his thin fa├žade of happiness and revealing the void of faith and love behind it. Even more, his son seems to have his own sites set on Ellen – as his new mom.

As Ellen’s friendship grows with Pete, she realizes that his father is about to marry the wrong woman for the right reasons. And despite her resolve to remain “neighbors only” with the dad, the precocious boy works his way into her heart, drawing Ellen and Adrian closer. Close enough for heartbreak, for Pete’s sake!

But how can her heart think that Adrian Sinclair is the one when he’s engaged to a sophisticated beauty who is everything Ellen isn’t. When Ellen’s three best friends see she’s been bitten by the love bug, they jump into action and submit her to a makeover that reveals the woman underneath her rough exterior and puts her in contention for Adrian’s love.

But Ellen must ask herself whether she’s ready to risk the heart that she’s always held close. Will Ellen be able to trust that God brought this family into her life for a reason? Or will her fear of getting hurt cause her to turn away from God’s plan and her one true chance at love?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Between Two Worlds: The Spiritual Journey of an Evangelical Catholic by Mike Timmis


Introducing the new blog alliance devoted to Non~Fiction books, Non~FIRST, a component of Fiction in Rather Short Takes (FIRST). (Join our alliance! Click the button!) This is our very first blog tour. Normally, we will post every 15th day of every month, featuring an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The special feature author is:


and his book:

NavPress (February 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mike Timmis had it all.

How does a kid from working-class Detroit become an international ambassador for Christ? And what motivated an evangelical-based ministry to choose this Catholic as its chairman? Mike Timmis’s inspiring life as a Catholic and evangelical leader reveals how our unity in Christ transcends the two worlds’ differences. From him, we learn how Catholics and evangelicals can go into an alienated world together as ministers of reconciliation and witnesses to God’s salvation and love.

Mike Timmis is a chairman of both Prison Fellowship in America and Prison Fellowship International. He was also a practicing lawyer and businessman. A Roman Catholic, Mike is deeply involved in ministry in his hometown of Detroit as well as projects in Africa and Central and South America. He and his wife, Nancey, are parents of two and grandparents of four.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter One

Taking Life into My Own Hands


On January 18, 1991, I was flying in a small two-engine plane in east-central Africa from Burundi to Kenya. Our party had just come from a wonderful meeting with Burundi’s President Pierre Buyoya where we’d shared the gospel with him and a number of cabinet ministers. Still, we were somewhat anxious because the Persian Gulf War had started the previous day. Right then, American fighters were in the air against Iraqi positions.

My wife, Nancy, and my son, Michael Jr., were with me, as well as Gene Dewey, the former second-in-command at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Sam Owen, a fellow believer then living in Nairobi. This trip was part of the quiet diplomacy I had undertaken as a member of a group called The Fellowship. We worked on behalf of the poor by raising up Jesus with world leaders, one means of pursuing the ministry of reconciliation that Christ entrusted to His followers.

As we flew over northern Tanzania, the pilot was suddenly issued an order that we were to land immediately. I was sitting close enough to the cockpit to hear the squawking instructions coming over the radio. I quickly assured the pilot that we had the requisite permission to fly over Tanzanian air space. The State Department had issued an order to American citizens to stay clear of Tanzania, an Iraq ally, so I made sure—or thought I had—that we had permission to fly over Tanzania en route to Kenya. The pilot relayed my protest to the Tanzanians.

“No, you do not have permission!” came the reply. “You must land immediately, or we will force you down.”

We landed at the small city airport of Mwanza. As we stepped down onto the tarmac, a military jeep pulled up. A cadre of officials and police officers met us and immediately arrested the pilot and impounded the plane.

Their leader also demanded our passports. I was reluctant to give these up, because no matter what alternative flight arrangements we might be able to make, we would be stranded without passports. Because I had requested—and been granted—permission to fly over Tanzania, our detention was making me angry. (Later I found out that the flight service we were using had previously flouted Tanzanian regulations and had again on this occasion.) Because my family was with me, I restrained my temper. My jaw clenched, I reluctantly handed over my passport.

We were allowed to find our own accommodations in Mwanza, and we found a car that took us to the New Hotel Mwanza. I would hate to have seen the old Hotel Mwanza. We were the hotel’s only guests, and for good reason. The first thing I did was check under the bed for bugs and rats.

As we caught our breath in our hotel room, I asked Nancy if she was afraid. “No, I’m not afraid,” she said. “You are with me, our son is with us, and God is with us.”

Even though we were stranded in an African backwater, I felt the same. I knew I was where God wanted us to be and felt—as I always have in my travels to what are now 114 nations—that God was going before me. In my many years of traveling on various missions, I’ve always felt protected by the special anointing that comes with God’s commission. Lost geographically, I was still at home spiritually, and for that reason at peace.

Our party of five met for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. My family is Catholic, and Gene Dewey and Sam Owen were evangelicals, but the unity we knew in the Lord sustained us, even when the dinner turned out to be rancid.

After a little while, the hotel manager, having no other guests, joined us at our table. This made way for the night’s entertainment. Four strapping young men in red overalls—the kind gas station attendants used to wear—came out, and with lamplight smiles launched into song:

My baaaaah-dy lies over the ocean,

My baaaaah-dy lies over the sea. . . .

Yes, they said “body” not “bonnie,” and since we all felt an ocean away from home, the song struck us as hilarious. Then the quartet followed with “Home on the Range,” and we nearly wept from laughing. We clapped and cheered, showing our appreciation to the young men. They had done us more good than they could possibly have known.

I spent the next day searching for transportation out of Mwanza. The others paid special attention to BBC radio reports on the progress of the war.

Within thirty-six hours, a plane flew in for us from Nairobi. We went out to the airport to meet it, eager to hightail it out of there. But when we arrived at the airport, no one seemed inclined to return our passports. Thankfully, Gene Dewey was already anticipating this. Because of his time with the United Nations, Gene had the most experience in dealing with government officials. He had also been a colonel in Vietnam and had a knack for being cool and fiercely determined at the same time. I kept asking him when he thought we’d get our passports back—and how. “Mike, don’t worry about it,” he’d say.

As we were walking out to the plane, bags in hand, with a couple of Tanzanian officials to the rear in escort, I looked over at Gene and said as forcefully as I could under my breath, “Gene, our passports!”

“Not now, Mike,” he replied quietly but just as forcefully. “Just don’t worry about it. Keep walking.”

It wasn’t until we were in the air that Gene unbuttoned his shirt and fished out all our passports.

“How did you get those?” I asked.

“I came out to the airport last night,” he said. “I broke into the office and took them. If you had kept talking, they might have found out!”

Gene’s street smarts reminded me of how I’d grown up and made my way. I asked myself, “How did I get here? How did a kid from the rough and gritty streets of Detroit end up on a trip to see international dignitaries? How could a guy born and raised Catholic go on a mission representing a largely evangelical organization?”

I’ve had many amazing, frightening, and heart-rending experiences as I’ve traveled the world in service to the King of kings. And one thing I can say for certain: when you entrust yourself completely to God and make yourself available to Him, you’re in for an adventure.

***

“Mike, the only way you can be ensured of success,” my father once told me, “is if you take it into your own hands and go into the professions.” I was an Irish Catholic kid from the battling West Side of Detroit, the youngest of five children, keen on finding my own place in the world.

My father remains the strongest man I think I’ve ever known, with enormous hands, a powerful physique, and an energy that stayed with him into his nineties. I saw him lift a car out of a ditch when he was in his sixties, although he did injure his back. As young men, he and his brother Brian went out to western Canada, where they took jobs as real-live cowboys, breaking horses. Brian stayed, became a Mounty in Regina, Saskatchewan, and played professional football there. My dad returned to Ottawa and played wingback for the Ottawa Roughriders.1 There he met an Irish girl who was both passionate and practical, and he had the good sense to ask for her hand.

My parents emigrated from Canada to Detroit in 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression. My mother’s uncle had moved there earlier from Ottawa and convinced my parents that the Motor City was one of the last places in North America where a man could find regular employment. Our relatives soon moved back to Ottawa, but my father and mother stayed, and Dad hired on with the city as a bus driver. He eventually worked his way up through the civil service system and retired as a bus station manager.

Most of his working life turned out to be far different from the spirited and reckless days as a cowboy and pro football player. I was the last of five children, separated in age by twelve years from my eldest sibling, Margaret Claire. My parents were well into their forties when I was born in 1939, and so I never knew my father as a young man. Or a particularly happy man—not at least until much later in his life when, in retirement, he was able to live on a farm and keep horses.

While I was growing up, I remember my dad collapsing into his chair at the end of his long days. He’d take up one of Luke Short’s westerns—he probably read ten times every novel the man had ever written. I can’t say for certain whether he ever graduated from high school. I know he served in the Canadian forces in World War I, beginning in 1914 at seventeen. And since he was born in 1897, so he might have left for the war before graduating.

We were a serious family, always working or studying or going to St. Brigid’s, our local Catholic parish. Our faith was a great comfort to both my father and mother, but it was also a cause of concern as to the children’s futures. My father felt that Irish Catholics were discriminated against, so he insisted that my brothers and I become doctors.

At the time, all of Detroit was divided into ethnic neighborhoods of Poles, Eastern European Jews, Irish, Germans, Italians, and so on. We lived in an Irish Catholic enclave. The houses stood one against the other on forty-foot lots, with bay windows to one side of half porches. The weave of that community was very close-knit. As a ten year-old, I once cursed on a playground a block from home and received a slap for it when I came in ten minutes later for supper. A neighbor had heard what I said and promptly telephoned my mother.

But such strictures helped keep the city a safe and open place where I was free to roam. Not only did we not lock our front door, but I don’t remember there being a key. From the age of eight or nine, I could walk down to the local candy store and then hop busses down to Woodward Avenue, where Hudson’s, the giant department store, mounted huge Christmas window displays.

At the same time, the neighborhood had its own pugnacious code: You stood up to a fight or you simply couldn’t live there. Taking a beating was far better than being constantly harassed, so I did a lot of fighting as a kid. I can remember coming home from school one winter day. My sister had taken the bus home from college, and one of the neighborhood bullies, whom I’ll call Larry, had thrown an “ice ball” that hit her in the face.

My dad said to me, “Take care of him.”

Larry’s reputation as a bully was well earned, and I said, “Dad, this guy is going to kill me!”

“I don’t care,” Dad replied sternly. “You go out and you take care of him—now!”

Anger with my father for ordering this confrontation drove me out into the streets. When I caught sight of Larry, I ran after him, yelling at him vehemently. He hardly knew what hit him! I was so angry with Dad that I beat the living daylights out of the kid. I had him down on his back by the curb, where water was running from the snowmelt, and I whaled on him.

My father may have been so concerned about prejudice against Catholics because he’d had to overcome that obstacle when he started courting my mother. My dad’s family was high-church Anglican. He converted when he married my mother, which wasn’t much of a stretch, since high-church Anglicans worship in a liturgical style as close to Catholicism as Protestantism gets. Still, crossing to Rome was always an issue, especially at a time when Help Wanted signs included the postscript “No Irish Need Apply.”

My mother’s family, the O’Reillys, originally from County Clare, were Irish Catholics to the core. My mother was a petite woman, not more than five feet tall. In appearance, she was what they call dark Irish, with mahogany and cherry wood strands in her hair and a flame in her light-blue eyes. The O’Reillys, who owned brickyards, were far more well-to-do than my dad’s family.

The pictures of my mother that I keep close by are candid shots; they show her as a young woman with the new bob of short hair that came in with the 1920s, striking a jaunty attitude. I can imagine this young Irish lass losing her head over my powerful, handsome father.

She was told never to have children because of a weak heart, and then she went and had five. Better educated than my dad, she had been to what was called a “normal school,” or teacher’s college. I would guess that many of our family’s intellectual and creative gifts came through my mother. My brother Gerry, who the family called Sonny, would go on to be a famous cardiologist; Hilary, an outstanding surgeon; and both my sisters, Margaret Claire and Agnes Cecile, went to college and had marriages and careers that took them well up the economic ladder.

Once married, my mother never worked outside the home but gave herself completely and utterly to her husband and children. That didn’t keep her from having a sharp tongue, or so my sisters claim; I never was cut deeply enough to remember her that way. It was not so much that I was the “baby” of the family, but that my mother’s health was in serious decline by the time I reached early adolescence. She was too exhausted to protest against much of anything by then.

Both my father and my mother led our family in practicing our Catholic faith. In fact, when I think of my religious formation, I remember the faith as a distinctly family affair. Our devotions as a family made a great impression on me. We devoted the month of May to praying with Mary—not to Mary—to her son, Jesus.

Every Sunday night, my whole family knelt down at seven o’clock and prayed for the conversion of Russia. My brothers Sonny and Hilary began to protest against the practice when they became busy medical students, but even then my parents insisted that the time be set aside.

On Tuesday evenings, we went to St. Brigid’s for devotions, praying the rosary, making novenas, or listening as a “mission” was preached—what evangelical Protestants know as a revival service. These devotions largely disappeared from the Catholic Church after Vatican II in the early sixties and only now are being reinstated. The piety they encouraged came to be regarded as old-fashioned. Through these devotions, the Catholics of my parents’ generation—and generations before them—experienced the Catholic faith as intensely personal. The devotions also encouraged them to recognize their faith as God’s work in their lives. I experienced enough of this to clearly understand that my salvation was dependent on the completed work of Christ—not on my own righteousness. There was never a time when I was under the misimpression that my “works” would get me into heaven.

I attended the local parish school, St. Brigid’s, where I was prepared for First Communion and Confirmation by the sisters who taught us. My first confession at the age of six saw me truly penitent, if confused. There were no secrets in our Irish Catholic family, and everyone wanted to know to what I had confessed. I told my brothers and sisters that I had admitted to adultery about a hundred times.

“You did?” they asked. “What did you mean?”

“That I picked my nose!”

I’m sure the priest about fell off the chair as he smothered his laughter.

Still, my First Communion was a memorable experience at which I received a child’s prayer book—one that I only recently parted with when I gave it to my granddaughter on the occasion of her First Communion. It meant that much to me. Even as a young child, I took the privilege of being invited into communion with God very seriously. I think most children do, because they understand intuitively what it means to be God’s child.

At St. Brigid’s, we were schooled in the Baltimore Catechism, so when I was confirmed in the Catholic faith in fifth grade, I knew all the right answers to the classic questions. Who made us? Who is God? Why did God make us? In retrospect, I wish I had understood and experienced these rites of passage more in terms of an evolving relationship with Christ rather than as childhood milestones. Confirmation comes later now, when a child is about twelve or thirteen, which I think is good; older children are better equipped to understand Confirmation as a personal commitment. At the same time, I’ve always been glad that the rudiments of the faith were drilled into me. This provided me with certainty and hope at many difficult times in my life, especially in the crises that crouched around the next corner.

***

My peaceful, happy childhood was disturbed by illness when I was about twelve years old. I returned home from a Boy Scout retreat with pneumonia and what the doctors suspected was rheumatic fever. I was sicker than I probably knew for a number of months and missed virtually all of eighth grade. After I regained my strength the first time, I had a relapse, and our doctor became worried about the condition of my heart. He ordered that I not participate in any sports. When I entered U of D High (University of Detroit High School, now called University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy), I was allowed to climb the stairs to the freshman and sophomore classrooms only once a day.

This was especially frustrating because I’d always had amazing stamina; I really didn’t pay much attention to the doctors’ orders except when under the direct supervision of my parents or the school. Still, the inactivity led to weight gain, and I became a pudgy kid, which I hated. What’s more, the physical isolation my illness brought with it became an emotional isolation. Like my father, I took refuge in books, becoming a voracious reader. I liked history and novels especially, and, as I often had trouble sleeping, I would grab a book and read long into the night.

My mother worried over me because of my health, of course, and that added to my brothers’ and sisters’ complaints that I was being spoiled. One time, Hilary was especially upset with me. We were arguing, and my mother admonished him to lay off me.

“He’s turning into a spoiled jerk,” Hilary insisted.

“Look at me,” she replied. “You’ve had a mother. He’s not going to have a mother. Leave him alone.”

Anyone could see by her pallor that her health was in decline. Indeed, her heart condition was growing rapidly worse. I vividly remember the night she died, April 11, 1955. It was Easter night. Sonny, a senior, and Hilary, a junior in medical school, were attending to her. They were talking on the phone to her doctor, their voices rising and becoming more strained as they followed his instructions with little effect. I came into her room while this was going on and heard Sonny yell into the phone, “I’ve already given her a shot of adrenaline and it’s not working!”

I looked at her, propped up on two pillows. I asked her, “Mama, what’s wrong?”

She was always a very prayerful woman, and she chose to answer in the only way she could. She took out her rosary from between the pillows and with her thumb held up the crucifix to me. That was the last thing she did. I was fifteen years old.

My father had always revered and worshiped my mother. He mourned her loss terribly. It so happened, as well, that her death came as the nest was about to empty. Long before my mother’s final illness, Margaret Claire and Sonny each had been planning their weddings. Both were married and gone within two months of my mother’s death. Hilary left for the University of Pennsylvania to begin his residency in surgery. The following year, Agnes Cecile, married as well.

My father never had many friends. He didn’t go out with the boys, and he drank hardly at all. For many years, he had lived a life of heroic, if quiet, sacrifice as he devoted himself to his wife and children. Our at-home family of seven had quickly dwindled to two.

Within a year after my mother’s death, my father and I fell into a grim Sunday regimen. We would go to Mass at ten o’clock, then drive to the cemetery, where my father would weep so uncontrollably that I would have to drive us home.

I was very lonely, but also very religious. We had Mass every day at U of D High, and that was important to me. I thought long and hard about becoming a priest.

Every day, when school let out at 2:35, I would stop by the chapel once more. I’d sit there and talk to my mother and pray, then hitchhike or take the bus home to an empty house, which was difficult.

I was fortunate to have my sisters and brothers and good friends to lean on. They made up much of what was lacking at home. Margaret Claire became like a second mom; as the eldest she had always nurtured me. When she married two months after my mother died, she and her husband, Russ Hastings, rented a small apartment only two or three miles from where we lived. She was extremely good to me, providing a desperately needed last dose of mothering.

I would often ride over to their apartment on my bike. Margaret Claire taught me manners, particularly how to behave around young women—a subject of increasing interest. She also taught me how to dance. She would put “Peg of My Heart” and the other romantic ballads of the mid-fifties on her old phonograph and show me how to glide with my partner around the dance floor. She’d let me cadge a cigarette from her pack now and again, but “only one,” she’d say, keeping to a motherly moderation.

Margaret Claire had worked as an executive secretary before marriage and would later raise seven children of her own. Russ was a CPA and became comptroller of Dodge Truck. They were the first among my family members to enter a whole new socioeconomic class.

Within eighteen months of my mother’s death, I underwent a transformation that was partly physical, certainly emotional, and had unexpected spiritual extensions. I began to realize that my brothers and sisters were off making their own lives. I felt that I was completely on my own and that I would rise or fall on my own strength. My father’s admonition that I take my success into my own hands became an implacable necessity. At the deepest level, I decided that I was going to live my life and not be a victim. I wasn’t going to feel sorry for myself. I was going to carve out my own life, whatever it took. I began hardening myself and maturing swiftly.

Between my junior and senior years of high school, I determined not to be fat anymore. I fasted, eating sparingly, all summer while working as a house painter in the sticky Detroit heat. My last growth spurt hit at the same time, taking me over the six-foot mark. I lost thirty pounds and grew about four inches. When I came back to school for my senior year, people hardly recognized me. The following summer, when I was working as a scaffold painter with a crew of older men, they took to calling me “Six O’clock,” because I was as thin and straight as clock hands at six o’clock.

Losing so much weight renewed my confidence and helped me reconnect with the tremendous stamina and energy I’d known as a child. I felt powerful and ready to meet life’s demands—on my own terms.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree. by Andrew Peterson




This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing



On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree. (The Wingfeather Saga)


WaterBrook Press (March 18, 2008)


by


Andrew Peterson




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Author/Singer/Songewriter Andrew Peterson, a 2005 Audie Award finalist for his readings of Ray Blackston’s Flabbergasted trilogy, wrote and produced the popular Christmas play and musical Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tale of the Coming of the Christ, and the album by the same name, which received the 2004 Best Album of the Year, World Christian Music’s Editors Choice Award. Andrew’s received critical acclaim for his seven albums and is at work on an eighth. He lives with his wife Jamie and their three young children near Nashville, Tennessee, where he reads storybooks aloud to his family each evening.


Artist Justin Gerard has illustrated several children’s books, including The Lightlings storybooks for young readers by R.C. Sproul. He lives in Greenville, South Carolina, and works as the chief creative officer for Portland Studios.


ABOUT THE BOOK:



Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog Nugget. Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Andrew Peterson spins a quirky and riveting tale of the Igibys’ extraordinary journey from Glipwood’s Dragon Day Festival and a secret hidden in the Books and Crannies Bookstore, past the terrifying Black Carriage, clutches of the horned hounds and loathsome toothy cows surrounding AnkleJelly Manor, through the Glipwood Forest and mysterious treehouse of Peet the Sock Man (known for a little softshoe and wearing tattered socks on his hands and arms), to the very edge of the Ice Prairies.

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness presents a world of wonder and a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to discuss for its layers of meaning about life’s true treasure and tangle of the beautiful and horrible, temporal and eternal, and good and bad.


PRAISE:




“So good–smart, funny, as full of ideas as action.”


–Jonathan Rogers, author of The Wilderking Trilogy





“A wildly imaginative, wonderfully irreverent epic that shines with wit and wisdom–and features excellent instructions on how to cope with Thwaps, Fangs, and the occasional Toothy Cow.”


–Allan Heinberg, writer/co-executive producer of ABC’s Grey's Anatomy, and co-creator of Marvel Comics Young Avengers





“Fun to read! Every page has word-play, a pun, or clever dialogue that makes me giggle, and the story is full of insight into life. The characters have great names and come to life and stimulate the imagination. Andrew is such a gifted storyteller; this book will be a treasure to both children and adults.”


–James Bryan Smith, author of Room of Marvels; Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, and Embracing the Love of God; co-author of Devotional Classics with Richard J. Foster





“What a great story! I laughed, gasped, and learned more about Skreean culture than I ever thought possible. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is equal parts adventure and whimsy–a real page turner that both accelerates the heart and warms it. I loved it.”


–Carolyn Arends, singer/songwriter and author of Wrestling with Angels





“Sometimes, in order to find out who we were supposed to be, we need to get lost in other worlds: Oz, Camelot, Narnia. In On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Andrew Peterson provides new and needed places like Aerwiar, Skree, and Glipwood–places where we need to get lost and found.”


–Michael Card, author of The Hidden Face of God and The Parable of Joy, and singer/songwriter of more than thirty albums





“Totally fun! Andrew Peterson, a natural storyteller in the oral tradition, has nailed the voice needed to translate a rip-roaring fantasy tale to the written page.”


–Donita K. Paul, author of DragonSpell, DragonKnight, DragonQuest, and DragonFire

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Only Uni by Camy Tang

What I thought: I love Camy's writing. It is fun, down to earth, and incredibly fresh. Her characters are buddies of mine...I only wish I could meet them for Sushi! Just watch out when you read...you won't be able to put it down AND you will be craving Chinese food the entire time! (That's the only time you'll stop reading. TO EAT!)



It is March 15th, but no need to worry about the Ides of March when we have a special blog tour for one of our FIRST members! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) Normally, on the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter! As this is a special tour, we are featuring it on a special day!




The special feature author is:






and her book:


Only Uni

Zondervan (March 2008)





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Camy Tang is a member of FIRST and is a loud Asian chick who writes loud Asian chick-lit. She grew up in Hawaii, but now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious poi-dog. In a previous life she was a biologist researcher, but these days she is surgically attached to her computer, writing full-time. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service.

Sushi for One? (Sushi Series, Book One) was her first novel. Her second, Only Uni (Sushi Series, Book Two) is now available. The next book in the series, Single Sashimi (Sushi Series, Book Three) will be coming out in September 2008!

Visit her at her website.

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

Trish Sakai walked through the door and the entire room hushed.

Well, not exactly pin-drop hushed. More like a handful of the several dozen people in her aunty’s enormous living room paused their conversations to glance her way. Maybe Trish had simply expected them to laugh and point.

She shouldn’t have worn white. She’d chosen the Bebe dress from her closet in a rebellious mood, which abandoned her at her aunt’s doorstep. Maybe because the explosion of red, orange, or gold outfits made her head swim.

At least the expert cut of her dress made her rather average figure curvier and more slender at the same time. She loved how well-tailored clothes ensured she didn’t have to work as hard to look good.

Trish kicked off her sandals, and they promptly disappeared in the sea of shoes filling the foyer. She swatted away a flimsy paper dragon drooping from the doorframe and smoothed down her skirt. She snatched her hand back and wrung her fingers behind her.

No, that’ll make your hips look huge.

She clenched her hands in front.

Sure, show all the relatives that you’re nervous.

She clasped them loosely at her waist and tried to adopt a regal expression.

“Trish, you okay? You look constipated.”

Her cousin Bobby snickered while she sneered at him. “Oh, you’re so funny I could puke.”

“May as well do it now before Grandma gets here.”

“She’s not here yet?” Oops, that came out sounding a little too relieved. She cleared her throat and modulated her voice to less-than-ecstatic levels. “When’s she coming?”

“Uncle picked her up, but he called Aunty and said Grandma forgot something, so he had to go back.”

Thank goodness for little favors. “Is Lex here?”

“By the food.”

Where else would she be? Last week, her cousin Lex had mentioned that her knee surgeon let her go back to playing volleyball three nights a week and coaching the other two nights, so her metabolism had revved up again. She would be eating like a horse.

Sometimes Trish could just kill her.

She tugged at her skirt—a little tight tonight. She should’ve had more self-control than to eat that birthday cake at work. She’d have to run an extra day this week … maybe.

She bounced like a pinball between relatives. The sharp scent of ginger grew more pungent as she headed toward the large airy kitchen. Aunty Sue must have made cold ginger chicken again. Mmmm. The smell mixed with the tang of black bean sauce (Aunty Rachel’s shrimp?), stir-fried garlic (any dish Uncle Barry made contained at least two bulbs), and fishy scallions (probably her cousin Linda’s Chinese-style sea bass).

A three-foot-tall red streak slammed into her and squashed her big toe.

“Ow!” Good thing the kid hadn’t been wearing shoes or she might have broken her foot. Trish hopped backward and her hand fumbled with a low side table. Waxed paper and cornstarch slid under her fingers before the little table fell, dropping the kagami mochi decoration. The sheet of printed paper, the tangerine, and rubbery-hard mochi dumplings dropped to the cream-colored carpet. Well, at least the cornstarch covering the mochi blended in.

The other relatives continued milling around her, oblivious to the minor desecration to the New Year’s decoration. Thank goodness for small—

A childish gasp made her turn. The human bullet who caused the whole mess, her little cousin Allison, stood with a hand up to her round lips that were stained cherry-red, probably from the sherbet punch. Allison lifted wide brown eyes up to Trish—hanaokolele-you’re-in-trouble—while the other hand pointed to the mochi on the floor.

Trish didn’t buy it for a second. “Want to help?” She tried to infuse some leftover Christmas cheer into her voice.

Allison’s disdainful look could have come from a teenager rather than a seven-year-old. “You made the mess.”

Trish sighed as she bent to pick up the mochi rice dumplings—one large like a hockey puck, the other slightly smaller—and the shihobeni paper they’d been sitting on. She wondered if the shihobeni wouldn’t protect the house from fires this next year since she’d dropped it.

“Aunty spent so long putting those together.”

Yeah, right. “Is that so?” She laid the paper on the table so it draped off the edge, then stuck the waxed paper on top. She anchored them with the larger mochi.

“Since you busted it, does it mean that Aunty won’t have any good luck this year?”

“It’s just a tradition. The mochi doesn’t really bring prosperity, and the tangerine only symbolizes the family generations.” Trish tried to artfully stack the smaller mochi on top of the bottom one, but it wouldn’t balance and kept dropping back onto the table.

“That’s not what Aunty said.”

“She’s trying to pass on a New Year’s tradition.” The smaller mochi dropped to the floor again. “One day you’ll have one of these in your own house.” Trish picked up the mochi. Stupid Japanese New Year tradition. Last year, she’d glued hers together until Mom found out and brought a new set to her apartment, sans-glue. Trish wasn’t even Shinto. Neither was anyone else in her family—most of them were Buddhists—but it was something they did because their family had always done it.

“No, I’m going to live at home and take care of Mommy.”

Thank goodness, the kid finally switched topics. “That’s wonderful.” Trish tried to smash the tangerine on top of the teetering stack of mochi. Nope, not going to fly. “You’re such a good daughter.”

Allison sighed happily. “I am.”

Your ego’s going to be too big for this living room, toots. “Um … let’s go to the kitchen.” She crammed the tangerine on the mochi stack, then turned to hustle Allison away before she saw them fall back down onto the floor.

“Uh, Triiiish?”

She almost ran over the kid, who had whirled around and halted in her path like a guardian lion. Preventing Trish’s entry into the kitchen. And blocking the way to the food. She tried to sidestep, but the other relatives in their conversational clusters, oblivious to her, hemmed her in on each side.

Allison sidled closer. “Happy New Year!”

“Uh … Happy New Year.” What was she up to? Trish wouldn’t put anything past her devious little brain.

“We get red envelopes at New Year’s.” Her smile took on a predatory gleam.

“Yes, we do.” One tradition she totally didn’t mind. Even the older cousins like Trish and Lex got some money from the older relatives, because they weren’t married yet.

Allison beamed. “So did you bring me a red envelope?”

What? Wait a minute. Was she supposed to bring red envelopes for the younger kids? No, that couldn’t be. “No, only the married people do that.” And only for the great-cousins, not their first cousins, right? Or was that great-cousins, too? She couldn’t remember.

Allison’s face darkened to purple. “That’s not true. Aunty gives me a red envelope and she’s not married.”

“She used to be married. Uncle died.”

“She’s not married now. So you’re supposed to give me a red envelope, too.”

Yeah, right. “If I gave out a red envelope to every cousin and great-cousin, I’d go bankrupt.”

“You’re lying. I’m going to tell Mommy.” Allison pouted, but her sly eyes gave her away.

A slow, steady burn crept through her body. This little extortionist wasn’t going to threaten her, not tonight of all nights.

She crouched down to meet Allison at eye level and forced a smile. “That’s not very nice. That’s spreading lies.”

Allison bared her teeth in something faintly like a grin.

“It’s not good to be a liar.” Trish smoothed the girl’s red velvet dress, trimmed in white lace.

“You’re the liar. You said you’re not supposed to give me a red envelope, and that’s a lie.”

The brat had a one-track mind. “It’s not a lie.”

“Then I’ll ask Mommy.” The grin turned sickeningly sweet.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Trish tweaked one of Allison’s curling-iron-manufactured corkscrews, standing out amongst the rest of her straight hair.

“I can do whatever I want.” An ugly streak marred the angelic mask.

“Of course you can.”

Allison blinked.

“But if you do, I’ll tell Grandma that I found her missing jade bracelet in your bedroom.” Gotcha.

“What were you doing in my bedroom?” Allison’s face matched her dress.

Trish widened her eyes. “Well, you left it open when your mom hosted the family Christmas party …”

Allison’s lips disappeared in her face, and her nostrils flared. “You’re lying—”

“And you know Grandma will ask your mommy to search your room.”

Her face whitened.

“So why don’t we forget about this little red envelope thing, hmm?” Trish straightened the gold heart pendant on Allison’s necklace and gave her a bland smile.

A long, loud inhale filled Allison’s lungs. For a second, Trish panicked, worried that she’d scream or something, but the air left her noiselessly.

Trish stood. “See ya.” She muscled her way past the human traffic cone.

She zeroed in on the kitchen counters like a heat-seeking missile. “Hey, guys.”

Her cousins Venus, Lex, and Jenn turned to greet her.

“You’re even later than Lex.” Venus leaned her sexy-enough-to-make-Trish-sick curves against a countertop as she crunched on a celery stick.

“Hey!” Lex nudged her with a bony elbow, then spoke to Trish. “Grandma’s not here yet, but your mom—”

“Trish, there you are.” Mom flittered up. “Did you eat yet? Let me fill you a plate. Make sure you eat the kuromame for good luck. I know you don’t like chestnuts and black beans, but just eat one. Did you want any konbu? Seaweed is very good for you.”

“No, Mom—”

“How about Aunty Eileen’s soup? I’m not sure what’s in it this year, but it doesn’t look like tripe this time—”

“Mom, I can get my own food.”

“Of course you can, dear.” Mom handed her a mondo-sized plate.

Trish grabbed it, then eyed Venus’s miniscule plate filled sparingly with meat, fish, and veggies. Aw, phooey. Why did Venus have to always be watching her hourglass figure—with inhuman self-control over her calorie intake—making Trish feel dumpy just for eating a potsticker? She replaced her plate with a smaller one.

Lex had a platter loaded with chicken and lo mein, which she shoveled into her mouth. “The noodles are good.”

“Why are you eating so much today?”

“Aiden’s got me in intensive training for the volleyball tournament coming up.”

Trish turned toward the groaning sideboard to hide the pang in her gut at mention of Lex’s boyfriend. Who had been Trish’s physical therapist. Aiden hadn’t met Lex yet when Trish had hit on him, but he’d rebuffed her—rather harshly, she thought—then became Christian and now was living a happily-ever-after with Lex.

Trish wasn’t jealous at all.

Why did she always seem to chase away the good ones and keep the bad ones? Story of her life. Her taste in men matched Lex’s horrendous taste in clothes—Lex wore nothing but ugly, loose workout clothes, while Trish dated nothing but ugly (well, in character, at least) losers.

Next to her, Jennifer inhaled as if she were in pain. “Grandma’s here.”

“No, not now. This is so not fair. I haven’t eaten yet.”

“It’ll still be here.” Venus’s caustic tone cut through the air at the same time her hand grabbed Trish’s plate. “Besides, you’re eating too much fat.”

Trish glared. “I am not fat—”

Venus gave a long-suffering sigh. “I didn’t say you were fat. I said you’re eating unhealthily.”

“You wouldn’t say that to Lex.” She stabbed a finger at her athletic cousin, who was shoveling chicken long rice into her mouth.

Lex paused. “She already did.” She slurped up a rice noodle.

Venus rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “All of you eat terribly. You need to stop putting so much junk into your bodies.”

“I will when Jenn stops giving us to-die-for homemade chocolate truffles.” Trish traded a high-five with Jenn, their resident culinary genius.

“Besides, chocolate’s good for you.” Lex spoke through a mouthful of black bean shrimp.

Venus, who seemed to know she was losing the battle, brandished a celery stick. “You all should eat more fiber—”

Trish snatched at a deep-fried chicken wing and made a face at her. “It’s low carb.” Although she’d love to indulge in just a little of those Chinese noodles later when Venus wasn’t looking …

She only had time to take a couple bites before she had to drop the chicken in a napkin and wipe her fingers. She skirted the edge of the crowd of relatives who collected around Grandma, wishing her Happy New Year.

Grandma picked up one of Trish’s cousin’s babies and somehow managed to keep the sticky red film coating his hands from her expensive Chanel suit. How did Grandma do that? It must be a gift. The same way her elegant salt-and-pepper ’do never had a hair out of place.

Then Grandma grabbed someone who had been hovering at her shoulder and thrust him forward.

No. Way.

What was Kazuo doing here?

With Grandma?

Her breath caught as the familiar fluttering started in her ribcage. No, no, no, no, no. She couldn’t react this way to him again. That’s what got her in trouble the last time.

Trish grabbed Jenn’s arm and pulled her back toward the kitchen. “I have to hide.”

Jenn’s brow wrinkled. “Why?”

“That’s Kazuo.”

Jenn’s eyes popped bigger than the moon cakes on the sideboard. “Really? I never met him.” She twisted her head.

“Don’t look. Hide me.”

Jenn sighed. “Isn’t that a little silly? He’s here for the New Year’s party.”

Trish darted her gaze around the kitchen, through the doorway to the smaller TV room. “There are over a hundred people here. There’s a good chance I can avoid him.”

“He probably came to see you.” A dreamy smile lit Jenn’s lips. “How romantic …”

A mochi-pounding mallet thumped in the pit of Trish’s stomach. Romantic this was not.

“What’s wrong?” Venus and Lex separated from the crowd to circle around her.

“That’s Kazuo.”

“Really?” Lex whirled around and started to peer through the doorway into the front room. “We never met him—”

“Don’t look now! Hide me!”

Venus lifted a sculpted eyebrow. “Oh, come on.”

“How does Grandma know him?” Jennifer’s soothing voice fizzled Venus’s sarcasm.

“She met him when we were dating.”

“Grandma loves Kazuo.” Lex tossed the comment over her shoulder as she stood at the doorway and strained to see Kazuo past the milling relatives.

Venus’s brow wrinkled. “Loves him? Why?”

Trish threw her hands up in the air. “He’s a Japanese national. He spoke Japanese to her. Of course she’d love him.”

Jennifer chewed her lip. “Grandma’s not racist—”

Venus snorted. “Of course she’s not racist, but she’s certainly biased.”

“That’s not a good enough reason. Don’t you think there’s something fishy about why she wants Trish to get back together with him?”

Venus opened her mouth, but nothing came out. After a moment, she closed it. “Maybe you’re right.”

Trish flung her arms out. “But I have no idea what that reason is.”

“So is she matchmaking? Now?”

“What better place?” Trish pointed to the piles of food. “Fatten me up and serve me back to him on a platter.”

Venus rolled her eyes. “Trish—”

“I’m serious. No way am I going to let her do that. Not with him.” The last man on earth she wanted to see. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Her carnal body certainly wanted to see him, even though her brain and spirit screamed, Run away! Run away!

“Was it that bad a breakup?” Lex looked over her shoulder at them.

Trish squirmed. “I, uh … I don’t think he thinks we’re broken up.”

“What do you mean? It happened six months ago.” Venus’s gaze seemed to slice right through her.

“Well … I saw him a couple days ago.”

Venus’s eyes flattened. “And …?”

Trish blinked rapidly. “We … got along really well.”

Venus crossed her arms and glared.

How did Venus do that? Trish barely had to open her mouth and Venus knew when she was lying. “We, um … got along really well.”

Jennifer figured it out first. She gasped so hard, Trish worried she’d pass out from lack of oxygen.

Venus cast a sharp look at her, then back at Trish. Her mouth sprang open. “You didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?” Lex rejoined the circle and the drama unfolding. She peered at Jenn and Venus—one frozen in shock, the other white with anger.

Trish’s heart shrank in her chest. She bit her lip and tasted blood. She couldn’t look at her cousins. She couldn’t even say it.

Venus said it for her. “You slept with him again.”

Lex’s jaw dropped. “Tell me you didn’t.” The hurt in her eyes stabbed at Trish’s heart like Norman Bates in Psycho.
Well, it was true that Trish’s obsessive relationship with Kazuo had made her sort of completely and utterly abandon Lex last year when she tore her ACL. Lex probably felt like Trish was priming to betray her again. “It was only once. I couldn’t help myself—”

“After everything you told me last year about how you never asked God about your relationship with Kazuo and now you were free.” Lex’s eyes grew dark and heavy, and Trish remembered the night Lex had first torn her ACL. Trish had been too selfish, wanting to spend time with Kazuo instead of helping Lex home from one of the most devastating things that had ever happened to her.

“I just couldn’t help myself—” Trish couldn’t seem to say anything else.

“So is Kazuo more important to you than me, after all?” Lex’s face had turned into cold, pale marble, making her eyes stand out in their intensity.

A sickening ache gnawed in Trish’s stomach. She hunched her shoulders, feeling the muscles tighten and knot.

Her cousins had always been compassionate whenever she hurt them, betrayed them, or caused them hassle and stress by the things she did. She knew she had a tendency to be thoughtless, but she had always counted on their instant hugs and “That’s okay, Trish, we’ll fix it for you.” But now she realized—although they forgave her, they were still hurt each and every time. Maybe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“Where’s Trish?” Grandma’s refined voice managed to carry above the conversations. “I’m sure she wants to see you.” She was coming closer to the kitchen.

“I can’t face him.” Trish barely recognized her own voice, as thready as old cobwebs. “I can’t face Grandma, either.” A tremor rippled through her body.

Venus’s eyes softened in understanding. “I’ll stall them for you.”

Trish bolted.

Out the other doorway into the living room. She dodged around a few relatives who were watching sports highlights on the big-screen TV. She spied the short hallway to Aunty’s bedroom. She could hide. Recoup. Or panic.

She slipped down the hallway and saw the closed door at the end. A narrow beam of faint light from under it cast a glow over the carpet. Her heart started to slow.

Maybe she could lie down, pretend she was sick? No, Grandma might suggest Kazuo take her home.

She could pretend she got a phone call, an emergency at work. Would Grandma know there weren’t many emergencies with cell biology research on New Year’s Eve?

The worst part was, Trish hadn’t even gotten to eat yet.

She turned the doorknob, but it stuck. Must be the damp weather. She applied her shoulder and nudged. The door clicked open. She slipped into the bedroom.

A couple stood in the dim lamplight, locked in a passionate embrace straight out of Star magazine. Trish’s heart lodged in her throat. Doh! Leave now! She whirled.

Wait a minute.

She turned.

The man had dark wavy hair, full and thick. His back was turned to her, but something about his stance …

The couple sprang apart. Looked at her.

Dad.

Kissing a woman who wasn’t her mother.



Taken from Only Uni, Copyright © 2008 by Camy Tang. Used by permission of Zondervan.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sweet Caroline by Rachel Hauck


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Sweet Caroline
(Thomas Nelson February 12, 2008

by

Rachel Hauck


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I graduated from Ohio State University (Go Buckeyes!) with a degree in Journalism. As a member of Phi Mu sorority, I partied my way though the last few years of college.

But, the truth is, and always will be, I belong to Jesus. At the age of six, I knelt at the altar of a Tulsa Methodist church and gave my life to the One who loves me.

After graduation, hired on at Harris Publishing as a software trainer, determined to see the world. And I did it without a laptop, a cell phone, an IPod or portable DVD player. Those were hard times.

But, I traveled to Ireland, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Australia, Canada and the U.S. from California to Maine. But, life on the road is difficult. Working twelve to fourteen hour days, one doesn't get to see many of the sites. In Ireland, our company's distributor drove me around at night so I could see something of Dublin.

I met Tony, my husband, in '87, at church, of all places. We got married in '92. Tony has been a pastor for twenty years. I've worked with him in eighteen of those twenty. Our heart is to see teens and adults passionate, radical and whole hearted for Jesus.

Tony and I don't have any children of our own, lots of kids-in-the-Lord and we love them all. However, we do have a very spoiled dog, and an even more spoiled cat.

I've always wanted to be a writer. My dad used to tell me, "You're a writer." I have letters he wrote me post college, exhorting me to write. In this, I believe he had the heart of God.

In '93, I started an epic WW2 novel with two plots. It was well rejected. After that ordeal, I took a break and put efforts into my job as a software project manager. But, I missed writing and in late ' 99, I took up the craft again.

With a little help from my friends, my first book was published in ' 04, Lambert's Pride, a romance novel. I love writing chick lit and romance. I love writing. What an honor.

Rachel has several other books that have been received with great praise, including Diva Nash Vegas and Lost In Nash Vegas

You can purchase copies of Rachel's books, signed personally for you,
at this site: Signed by the Author.com

ABOUT THE BOOK

When a Southern waitress inherits the Lowcountry cafe where she works, she suddenly has to balance more than just her next food order.

Caroline Sweeney has always done the right thing--the responsible, dependable thing--unlike her mother who abandoned her family. But when her best friend challenges her to accept an exciting job adventure in Barcelona, Spain, Caroline says "yes" to destiny.

Then, without warning, ownership of the run-down cafe where she's been waitressing falls right into Caroline's lap. While she's trying to determine the cafe's future, handsome Deputy Sherriff J.D. Rand captures Caroline's heart.

But when her first love, Mitch O'Neal, comes back to town, fresh from the heat of his newly-found fame as a country music singer in Nashville, Caroline must make some hard choices about love and the pursuit of the sweet life.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Who'da thunk it?




You Are 89% Creative



You are an incredibly creative person. For you, there are no bounds or limits to your creativity.

Your next creation could be something very great... Or at least very cool!

The Perfect Life by Robin Lee Hatcher




This week, the



Christian Fiction Blog Alliance



is introducing



The Perfect Life


Thomas Nelson (February 5, 2008)


by


Robin Lee Hatcher


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon.

She also likes to blog. Go leave her a comment at Write Thinking!


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Katherine Clarkson has the perfect life. Married to Brad, a loving and handsome husband, respected in their church and the community. Two grown daughters on the verge of starting families of their own. A thriving ministry. Good friends. A comfortable life.

She has it all--until the day a reporter appears with shocking allegations. Splashed across the local news are accusations of Brad's financial impropriety at his foundation and worse, an affair with a former employee. Without warning, Katherine's marriage is shattered and her family torn apart. The reassuring words she's spoken to many brokenhearted women over the years offer little comfort now.

Her world spinning, Katherine wonders if she can find the truth in the chaos that consumes her. How can she survive the loss of what she thought was the perfect life?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Truffles by the Sea by Julie Carobini



This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Truffles by the Sea


Bethany House (February 1, 2008)


by


Julie Carobini




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Julie Carobini is an award-winning writer whose stories often spotlight her family, the sea, and God's timely work in the lives of those around her. She lives with her husband, Dan, and their three children in Ventura Beach, California.

She also likes to blog! Go leave her a comment at Waves of Grace.


Julie left you all a special message:


To celebrate my upcoming CFBA tour March 5-7, I'll be giving away a copy of Truffles by the Sea AND and a 1/2 lb. box of yummy truffles to three of your readers.

All they need to do is drop by my blog
http://juliecarobini.blogspot.com/ during the tour and leave a comment and a way to contact them if they win!



ABOUT THE BOOK:

If you read, Julie's first book, Chocolate Beach, then you might remember Gaby as Bri’s dramatic, lovesick best friend. Unfortunately, things get worse—much worse—for her before they get…well, best not to give it away.

Sometimes all a girl has left is chocolate...

Gaby Flores has a penchant for drama and an unfortunate knack for dating Mr. So Wrong. After breaking off yet another relationship, watching her apartment building burn to the ground, and discovering that her dippy delivery guy has run off with most of her business, Gaby decides it’s time to turn things around.

So she moves to a tiny waterfront loft and takes on a new motto: “Be gullible no more!” With help from her friends, she works to rebuild her flower shop—and her life. But when legal troubles and quirky neighbors and two surprising romances enter her beachy world, Gaby’s motto and fledgling faith are put to the test.

Can a young woman prone to disaster in both work and love finally find happily ever after?


"Truffles by the Sea is delightful! Julie Carobini has a new fan in this reader, and she's earned a spot on my keeper shelf." --Kay James, RomanceReaderatHeart.com



"This book is a delight to read, and the author has us rooting for Gaby from page one. This girl's never-say-die attitude is incredible, and her life is filled with all kinds of foibles. This is chick lit with heart – about so much more than finding a man.... While keeping the light chick lit tone, this book satisfied while avoiding the tired old formulas. Just when I’m ready to give up on the genre, I stumble across an author who can write without relying on stereotypes." --Cara Putman, writerinterrupted.com



"I liked Julie Carobini's first novel, Chocolate Beach, but her sophomore release, Truffles By The Sea, greatly surpasses it. I thoroughly enjoyed Carobini's second book and felt her writing was much stronger throughout. The characters are deeper and yet funnier – a great combination.... It's a great read for a cold winter day – you can curl up with the book, a nice fire and pretend you're the one by the sea." --Jill Hart, RadiantLit.com

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Restorer's Journey by Sharon Hinck



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:


The Restorer's Journey

Navpress Publishing Group (February 7, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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, http://www.sharonhinck.com/. 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 The Restorer’s Son. The FIRST chapter shown here is from the third book, The Restorer's Journey. Enjoy!


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


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 married.

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 veggies.”

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, too.

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 portal.”

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 second.

“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 do.”

“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.