Saturday, December 19, 2009

Baby it's Cold Outside

This is one of my favorite YouTube videos. Hope you enjoy!


Let it Snow!

We finally had snow here! Yesterday it started to snow...and snow...and snow. Here are some pictures from when it started and what it looked like the day after (today). Hope you enjoy!









Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Sheriff’s Surrender by Susan Page Davis

What I Thought: This was a fun read. I enjoyed the tom-boy main character and loved that she never did get all 'fancied up' to snag the cute sheriff. Although the mystery wasn't too difficult to figure out, I still really enjoyed the exciting tale. The story kept a great pace; I never had to skip parts like I do in many books I've read lately. If you like Westerns and Romance, this one is for you.


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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Sheriff’s Surrender

Barbour Books (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Award-winning author Susan Page Davis is a mother of six who lives in Maine with her husband, Jim. She worked as a newspaper correspondent for more than twenty-five years in addition to home-schooling her children. She writes historical romances and cozy mysteries and is a member of ACFW. Visit her Web site at

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602605629
ISBN-13: 978-1602605626

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Fergus, Idaho

May 1885


Gert Dooley aimed at the scrap of red calico and squeezed the trigger. The Spencer rifle she held cracked, and the red cloth fifty yards away shivered.

“I’d say your shooting piece is in fine order.” She lowered the rifle and passed it to the owner, Cyrus Fennel. She didn’t particularly like Fennel, but he always paid her brother, the only gunsmith in Fergus, with hard money.

He nodded. “Thank you, Miss Dooley.” He shoved his hand into his pocket.

Gert knew he was fishing out a coin. This was the part her brother hated most—taking payment for his work. She turned away. Hiram would be embarrassed enough without her watching. She picked up the shawl she had let fall to the grass a few minutes earlier.

“That’s mighty fine shooting, Gert,” said Hiram’s friend, rancher Ethan Chapman. He’d come by earlier to see if Hiram would help him string a fence the next day. When Cyrus Fennel had arrived to pick up his repaired rifle, Ethan had sat down on the chopping block to watch Gert demonstrate the gun.

“Thank you kindly.” Gert accepted praise for shooting as a matter of course. Now, if Ethan had remarked that she looked fine today or some such pretty thing, she’d have been flustered. But he would never say anything like that. And shooting was just work.

Fennel levered the rifle’s action open and peered at the firing pin. “Looks good as new. I should be able to pick off those rats that are getting in my grain bins.”

“That’s quite a cannon for shooting rats,” Gert said.

Ethan stood and rested one foot on the chopping block, leaning forward with one arm on his knee. “You ought to hire Gert to shoot them for you.”

Gert scowled. “Why’d I want to do that? He can shoot his own rats.”

Hiram, who had pocketed his pay as quickly as possible, moved the straw he chewed from one side of his mouth to the other. He never talked much. Men brought him their firearms to fix. Hiram listened to them tell him what the trouble was while eyeing the piece keenly. Then he’d look at Gert. She would tell them, “Come back next week.” Hiram would nod, and that was the extent of the conversation. Since his wife, Violet, had died eight years ago, the only person Hiram seemed to talk to much was Ethan.

Fennel turned toward her with a condescending smile. “Folks say you’re the best shot in Fergus, Miss Dooley.”

Gert shrugged. It wasn’t worth debating. She had sharp eyes, and she’d fired so many guns for Hiram to make sure they were in working order that she’d gotten good at it, that was all.

Ethan’s features, however, sprang to life. “Ain’t it the truth? Why, Gert can shoot the tail feathers off a jay at a hundred yards with a gun like that. Mighty fine rifle.” He nodded at Fennel’s Spencer, wincing as though he regretted not having a gun as fine.

“Well, now, I’m a fair shot myself,” Fennel said. “I could maybe hit that rag, too.”

“Let’s see you do it,” Ethan said.

Fennel jacked a cartridge into the Spencer, smiling as he did. The rag still hung limp from a notched stick and was silhouetted against the distant dirt bank across the field. He put his left foot forward and swung the butt of the stock up to his shoulder, paused motionless for a second, and pulled the trigger.

Gert watched the cloth, not the shooter. The stick shattered just at the bottom of the rag. She frowned. She’d have to find another stick next time. At least when she tested a gun, she clipped the edge of the cloth so her stand could be used again.

Hiram took the straw out of his mouth and threw it on the ground. Without a word, he strode to where the tattered red cloth lay a couple of yards from the splintered stick and brought the scrap back. He stooped for a piece of firewood from the pile he’d made before Fennel showed up. The stick he chose had split raggedly, and Hiram slid the bit of cloth into a crack.

Ethan stood beside Gert as they watched Hiram walk across the field, all the way to the dirt bank, and set the piece of firewood on end.

“Hmm.” Fennel cleared his throat and loaded several cartridges into the magazine. When Hiram was back beside them, he raised the gun again, held for a second, and fired. The stick with the bit of red stood unwavering.

“Let Gert try,” Ethan said.

“No need,” she said, looking down at her worn shoe tips peeping out beneath the hem of her skirt.

“Oh, come on.” Ethan’s coaxing smile tempted her.

Fennel held the rifle out. “Be my guest.”

Gert looked to her brother. Hiram gave the slightest nod then looked up at the sky, tracking the late afternoon sun as it slipped behind a cloud. She could do it, of course. She’d been firing guns for Hiram for ten years—since she came to Fergus and found him grieving the loss of his wife and baby. Folks had brought him more work than he could handle. They felt sorry for him, she supposed, and wanted to give him a distraction. Gert had begun test firing the guns as fast as he could fix them. She found it satisfying, and she’d kept doing it ever since. Thousands upon thousands of rounds she’d fired, from every type of small firearm, unintentionally building herself a reputation of sorts.

She didn’t usually make a show of her shooting prowess, but Fennel rubbed her the wrong way. She knew he wasn’t Hiram’s favorite patron either. He ran the Wells Fargo office now, but back when he ran the assay office, he’d bought up a lot of failed mines and grassland cheap. He owned a great deal of land around Fergus, including the spread Hiram had hoped to buy when he first came to Idaho. Distracted by his wife’s illness, Hiram hadn’t moved quickly enough to file claim on the land and had missed out. Instead of the ranch he’d wanted, he lived on his small lot in town and got by on his sporadic pay as a gunsmith.

Gert let her shawl slip from her fingers to the grass once more and took the rifle. As she focused on the distant stick of firewood, she thought, That junk of wood is you, Mr. Rich Land Stealer. And that little piece of cloth is one of your rats.

She squeezed gently. The rifle recoiled against her shoulder, and the far stick of firewood jumped into the air then fell to earth, minus the red cloth.

“Well, I’ll be.” Fennel stared at her. “Are you always this accurate?”

“You ain’t seen nothing,” Ethan assured him.

Hiram actually cracked a smile, and Gert felt the blood rush to her cheeks even though Ethan hadn’t directly complimented her. She loved to see Hiram smile, something he seldom did.

“Mind sharing your secret, Miss Dooley?” Fennel asked.

Ethan chuckled. “I’ll tell you what it is. Every time she shoots, she pretends she’s aiming at something she really hates.”

“Aha.” Fennel smiled, too. “Might I ask what you were thinking of that time, ma’am?”

Gert’s mouth went dry. Never had she been so sorely tempted to tell a lie.

“Likely it was that coyote that kilt her rooster last month,” Hiram said.

Gert stared at him. He’d actually spoken. She knew when their eyes met that her brother had known exactly what she’d been thinking.

Ethan and Fennel both chuckled.

Of course, I wouldn’t really think of killing him, Gert thought, even though he stole the land right out from under my grieving brother. The Good Book says don’t kill and don’t hate. Determined to heap coals of fire on her adversary’s head, she handed the Spencer back to him. “You’re not too bad a shot yourself, Mr. Fennel.”

His posture relaxed, and he opened his mouth all smiley, like he might say something pleasant back, but suddenly he stiffened. His eyes focused beyond Gert, toward the dirt street. “Who is that?”

Gert swung around to look as Ethan answered. “That’s Millicent Peart.”

“Don’t think I’ve seen her since last fall.” Fennel shook his head. “She sure is showing her age.”

“I don’t think Milzie came into town much over the winter,” Gert said.

For a moment, they watched the stooped figure hobble along the dirt street toward the emporium. Engulfed in a shapeless old coat, Milzie Peart leaned on a stick with each step. Her mouth worked as though she were talking to someone, but no one accompanied her.

“How long since her man passed on?” Ethan asked.

“Long time,” Gert said. “Ten years, maybe. She still lives at their cabin out Mountain Road.”

Fennel grimaced as the next house hid the retreating figure from view. “Pitiful.”

Ethan shrugged. “She’s kinda crazy, but I reckon she likes living on their homestead.”

Gert wondered how Milzie got by. It must be lonesome to have no one, not even a nearly silent brother, to talk to out there in the foothills.

“Supper in half an hour.” She turned away from the men and headed for the back porch of the little house she shared with Hiram. She hoped Fennel would take the hint and leave. And she hoped Ethan would stay for supper, but of course she would never say so.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Novel Idea by ChiLibras

What I Thought:

This is a wonderful resource. If you are thinking of doing any kind of writing, I highly recommend this book.


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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:

ChiLibras
(contributions from best-selling authors including Jerry B. Jenkins, Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Randy Alcorn, Terri Blackstock, Robin Jones Gunn, Angela Hunt and more)

and the book:


A Novel Idea

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE BOOK:




Best-selling Christian fiction writers have teamed together to contribute articles on the craft of writing. A Novel Idea contains tips on brainstorming ideas and crafting and marketing a novel. It explains what makes a Christian novel “Christian” and offers tips on how to approach tough topics. Contributors include Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, Angela Hunt, and many other beloved authors. All proceeds will benefit MAI, an organization that teaches writing internationally to help provide literature that is culturally relevant.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414329946
ISBN-13: 978-1414329949

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter 1: Plot

The Plot Skeleton

Angela Hunt

Imagine, if you will, that you and I are sitting in a room with one hundred other authors. If you were to ask each person present to describe their plotting process, you’d probably get a hundred different answers. Writers’ methods vary according to their personalities, and we are all different. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically.

If, however, those one hundred novelists were to pass behind an X-ray machine, you’d discover that we all possess remarkably similar skeletons. Beneath our disguising skin, hair, and clothing, our skeletons are pretty much identical.

In the same way, though writers vary in their methods, good stories are composed of remarkably comparable skeletons. Stories with “good bones” can be found in picture books and novels, plays and films.

Many fine writers tend to carefully outline their plots before they begin the first chapter. On the other hand, some novelists describe themselves as “seat-of-the-pants” writers. But when the story is finished, a seat-of-the-pants novel will (or should!) contain the same elements as a carefully plotted book. Why? Because whether you plan it from the beginning or find it at the end, novels need structure beneath the story.

After mulling several plot designs and boiling them down to their basic elements, I developed what I call the “plot skeleton.” It combines the spontaneity of seat-of-the-pants writing with the discipline of an outline. It requires a writer to know where he’s going, but it leaves room for lots of discovery on the journey.

When I sit down to plan a new book, the first thing I do is sketch my smiling little skeleton.

To illustrate the plot skeleton in this article, I’m going to refer frequently to The Wizard of Oz and a lovely foreign film you may never have seen, Mostly Martha.

The Skull: A Central Character
The skull represents the main character, the protagonist. A lot of beginning novelists have a hard time deciding who the main character is, so settle that question right away. Even in an ensemble cast, one character should be featured more than the others. Your readers want to place themselves into your story world, and it’s helpful if you can give them a sympathetic character to whom they can relate. Ask yourself, “Whose story is this?” That is your protagonist.

This main character should have two needs or problems—one obvious, one hidden—which I represent by two yawning eye sockets.

Here’s a tip: Hidden needs, which usually involve basic human emotions, are often solved or met by the end of the story. They are at the center of the protagonist’s “inner journey,” or character change, while the “outer journey” is concerned with the main events of the plot. Hidden needs often arise from wounds in a character’s past.

Consider The Wizard of Oz. At the beginning of the film, Dorothy needs to save her dog from Miss Gulch, who has arrived to take Toto because he bit her scrawny leg—a very straightforward and obvious problem. Dorothy’s hidden need is depicted but not directly emphasized when she stands by the pigpen and sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Do children live with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em if all is fine with Mom and Dad? No. Though we are not told what happened to Dorothy’s parents, it’s clear that something has splintered her family and Dorothy’s unhappy. Her hidden need, the object of her inner journey, is to find a place to call home.

Mostly Martha opens with the title character lying on her therapist’s couch and talking about all that is required to cook the perfect pigeon. Since she’s in a therapist’s office, we assume she has a problem, and the therapist addresses this directly: “Martha, why are you here?”

“Because,” she answers, “my boss will fire me if I don’t go to therapy.” Ah—obvious problem at work with the boss. Immediately we also know that Martha is high-strung. She is precise and politely controlling in her kitchen. This woman lives for food, but though she assures us in a voice-over that all a cook needs for a perfectly lovely dinner is “fish and sauce,” we see her venture downstairs to ask her new neighbor if he’d like to join her for dinner. He can’t, but we become aware that Martha needs company. She needs love in her life.

Connect the Skull to the Body: Inciting Action
Usually the first few chapters of a novel are involved with the business of establishing the protagonist in a specific time and place, his world, his needs, and his personality. The story doesn’t kick into gear, though, until you move from the skull to the spine, a connection known as the inciting incident.

Writers are often told to begin the story in medias res, or in the middle of the action. This is not the same as the Big Incident. Save the big event for a few chapters in, after you’ve given us some time to know and understand your character’s needs. Begin your story with an obvious problem—some action that shows how your character copes. In the first fifth of the story we learn that Dorothy loves Toto passionately and that Martha is a perfectionist chef. Yes, start in the middle of something active, but hold off on the big event for a while. Let us get to know your character first . . . because we won’t gasp about their dilemma until we know them.

In a picture book, the inciting incident is often signaled by two words: One day . . . Those two words are a natural way to move from setting the stage to the action. As you plot your novel, ask yourself, “One day, what happens to move my main character into the action of the story?” Your answer will be your inciting incident, the key that turns your story engine.

After Dorothy ran away, if she’d made it home to Uncle Henry and Aunt Em without incident, there would have been no story. The inciting incident? When the tornado picks Dorothy up and drops her, with her house, in the land of Oz.

The inciting incident in Mostly Martha is signaled by a ringing telephone. When Martha takes the call, she learns that her sister, who was a single mother to an eight-year-old girl, has been killed in an auto accident.

Think of your favorite stories—how many feature a hero who’s reluctant to enter the special world? Often—but not always—your protagonist doesn’t want to go where the inciting incident is pushing him or her. Obviously, Martha doesn’t want to hear that her sister is dead, and she certainly doesn’t want to be a mother. She takes Lina, her niece, and offers to cook for her (her way of showing love), but Lina wants her mother, not gourmet food.

Even if your protagonist has actively pursued a change, he or she may have moments of doubt as the entrance to the special world looms ahead. When your character retreats or doubts or refuses to leave the ordinary world, another character should step in to provide encouragement, advice, information, or a special tool. This will help your main character overcome those last-minute doubts and establish the next part of the skeleton: the goal.

The End of the Spine: The Goal
At some point after the inciting incident, your character will establish and state a goal. Shortly after stepping out of her transplanted house, Dorothy looks around Oz and wails, “I want to go back to Kansas!” She’s been transported over the rainbow, but she prefers the tried and true to the unfamiliar and strange. In order to go home, she’ll have to visit the wizard in the Emerald City. As she tries to meet an ever-shifting set of subordinate goals (follow the yellow brick road; overcome the poppies; get in to see the wizard; bring back a broomstick), her main goal keeps viewers glued to the screen.

This overriding concern—will she or won’t she make it home?—is known as the dramatic question. The dramatic question in every murder mystery is, Who committed the crime? The dramatic question in nearly every thriller is, Who will win the inevitable showdown between the hero and the villain? Along the way readers will worry about the subgoals (Will the villain kill his hostage? Will the hero figure out the clues?), but the dramatic question keeps them reading until the last page.

Tip: To keep the reader involved, the dramatic question should be directly related to the character’s ultimate goal. Martha finds herself trying to care for a grieving eight-year-old who doesn’t want another mother. So Martha promises to track down the girl’s father, who lives in Italy. She knows only that his name is Giuseppe, but she’s determined to find him.

The Rib Cage: Complications
Even my youngest students understand that a protagonist who accomplishes everything he or she attempts is a colorless character. As another friend of mine is fond of pointing out, as we tackle the mountain of life, it’s the bumps we climb on! If you’re diagramming, sketch at least three curving ribs over your spine. These represent the complications that must arise to prevent your protagonist from reaching his goal.

Why at least three ribs? Because even in the shortest of stories—in a picture book, for instance—three complications work better than two or four. I don’t know why three gives us such a feeling of completion, but it does. Maybe it’s because God is a Trinity and we’re hardwired to appreciate that number.

While a short story will have only three complications, a movie or novel may have hundreds. Complications can range from the mundane—John can’t find a pencil to write down Sarah’s number—to life-shattering. As you write down possible complications that could stand between your character and his ultimate goal, place the more serious problems at the bottom of the list.

The stakes—what your protagonist is risking—should increase in significance as the story progresses. In Mostly Martha, the complications center on this uptight woman’s ability to care for a child. Lina hates her babysitter, so Martha has to take Lina to work with her. But the late hours take their toll, and Lina is often late for school. Furthermore, Lina keeps refusing to eat anything Martha cooks for her.

I asked you to make the ribs curve because any character that runs into complication after complication without any breathing space is going to be a weary character . . . and you’ll weary your reader with this frenetic pace. One of the keys to good pacing is to alternate your plot complications with rewards. Like a pendulum that swings on an arc, let your character relax, if only briefly, between disasters.

Along the spiraling yellow brick road, Dorothy soon reaches an intersection (a complication). Fortunately, a friendly scarecrow is willing to help (a reward). They haven’t gone far before Dorothy becomes hungry (a complication). The scarecrow spots an apple orchard ahead (a reward). These apple trees, however, resent being picked (a complication), but the clever scarecrow taunts them until they begin to throw fruit at the hungry travelers (a reward).

See how it works? Every problem is followed by a reward that matches the seriousness of the complication. Let’s fast-forward to the scene where the balloon takes off without Dorothy. This is a severe complication—so severe it deserves a title of its own: the bleakest moment. This is the final rib in the rib cage, the moment when all hope is lost for your protagonist.

The Thighbone: Send in the Cavalry
At the bleakest moment, your character needs help, but be careful how you deliver it. The ancient Greek playwrights had actors representing the Greek gods literally descend from the structure above to bring their complicated plot knots to a satisfying conclusion. This sort of resolution is frowned upon in modern literature. Called deus ex machina (literally “god from the machine”), this device employs some unexpected and improbable incident to bring victory or success. If you find yourself whipping up a coincidence or a miracle after the bleakest moment, chances are you’ve employed deus ex machina. Back up and try again, please.

Avoid using deus ex machina by sending two types of help: external and internal. Your character obviously needs help from outside; if he could solve the problem alone, he would have done it long before the bleakest moment. Having him conveniently remember something or stumble across a hidden resource smacks of coincidence and will leave your reader feeling resentful and cheated.

So send in the cavalry, but remember that they can’t solve the protagonist’s problem. They can give the protagonist a push in the right direction; they can nudge; they can remind; they can inspire. But they shouldn’t wave a magic wand and make everything all right.

For Dorothy, help comes in the form of Glenda the Good Witch, who reveals a secret: The ruby slippers have the power to carry her back to Kansas. All Dorothy has to do is say, “There’s no place like home”—with feeling, mind you—and she’ll be back on the farm with Uncle Henry and Auntie Em. Dorothy’s problem isn’t resolved, however, until she applies this information internally. At the beginning of the story, she wanted to be anywhere but on the farm. Now she has to affirm that the farm is where she wants to be. Her hidden need—to find a place to call home—has been met.

In Mostly Martha, the bleakest moment arrives with Lina’s father, Giuseppe. He is a good man, and Lina seems to accept him. But after waving good-bye, Martha goes home to an empty apartment and realizes that she is not happy with her controlled, childless life. She goes to Marlo, the Italian chef she has also begun to love, and asks for his help.

The Kneecap and Lower Leg: Make a Decision, Learn a Lesson
Martha realizes that her old life was empty—she needs Lina in her life, and she needs Marlo. So she and Marlo drive from Germany to Italy to fetch Lina and bring her home.

You may be hard-pressed to cite the lesson you learned from the last novel you read, but your protagonist needs to learn something. This lesson is the epiphany, a sudden insight that speaks volumes to your character and brings them to the conclusion of their inner journey.

James Joyce popularized the word epiphany, literally the manifestation of a divine being. (Churches celebrate the festival of Epiphany on January 6 to commemorate the meeting of the Magi and the Christ child.) After receiving help from an outside source, your character should see something—a person, a situation, or an object—in a new light.

When the scarecrow asks why Glinda waited to explain the ruby slippers, the good witch smiles and says, “Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.” The scarecrow then asks, “What’d you learn, Dorothy?” Without hesitation, Dorothy announces that she’s learned a lesson: “The next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard.” She has learned to appreciate her home, so even though she is surrounded by loving friends and an emerald city, Dorothy chooses to return to colorless Kansas. She hugs her friends once more, then grips Toto and clicks her heels.

The Foot: The Resolution
Every story needs the fairy-tale equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.” Not every story ends happily, of course, though happy endings are undoubtedly popular. Some protagonists are sadder and wiser after the course of their adventure. But a novel should at least leave the reader with hope.

The resolution to Mostly Martha is portrayed during the closing of the film. As the credits roll, we see Marlo and Martha meeting Lina in Italy; we see Martha in a wedding gown (with her hair down!) and Marlo in a tuxedo; we see a wedding feast with Giuseppe, his family, and Martha’s German friends; we see Martha and Marlo and Lina exploring an abandoned restaurant—clearly, they are going to settle in Italy so Lina can be a part of both families. In the delightful final scene, we see Martha with her therapist again, but this time he has cooked for her and she is advising him.

Many movies end with a simple visual image—we see a couple walking away hand in hand, a mother cradling her long-lost son. That’s all we need to realize that our main character has struggled, learned, and come away a better (or wiser) person. As a writer, you’ll have to use words, but you can paint the same sort of reassuring picture without resorting to “and they lived happily ever after.”

Your story should end with a changed protagonist—he or she has gone through a profound experience and is different for it, hopefully for the better. Your protagonist has completed an outer journey (experienced the major plot events) and an inner journey that address some hurt from the past and result in a changed character.

What Next?
Now that we’ve reached the foot of our story skeleton, we’re finished outlining the basic structure. Take those major points and write them up in paragraph form. Once you’ve outlined your plot and written your synopsis, you’re ready to begin writing scenes. Take a deep breath, glance over your skeleton, and jump in.


Taken from A Novel Idea by ChiLibras. Copyright ©2009 by ChiLibras. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss

What I Thought:

I really liked the beginning and middle of this book. It had an interesting premise with an orphaned woman who had to take children on the orphan train to meet their new parents. Unbeknownst to her, she had been 'bought' as a mail order bride.

I loved that idea.

The problem for me started with the love interest. He was predictable and rather boring. Then there was way too much Christianese for me. I don't like it when I'm reading an interesting story and I'm suddenly slapped on the head with the Bible. It became way too sappy by the end...to the point that I was groaning very loudly every time they looked 'longingly' at something. I also didn't feel that the emergency birth was realistic. I'm sorry, but the lady would have bled to death with a bottom first birth in a wagon with no doctor; She would not be all spunky and rocking in a rocking chair just a few hours later.

If you like lovey dovey Christian romance, you'll like this book. But this is only my opinion...I really did like the beginning and middle! Please read the first chapter to decide for yourself.



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

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


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana

Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003. Her book Night Song won Book of the Year from ACFW in the Long Historical Fiction category. Her book Life Interrupted: The Scoop On Being a Young Mom was a Gold Medallion Finalist. Tricia has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Visit the author's website.



Ocieanna Fleissis a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer's historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. Connect with Ocieanna on Facebook!



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935416294
ISBN-13: 978-1935416296

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The sound of little girls’ voices and the sight of the sun streaming through the tall, second-story window of the Open Door Home for Destitute Girls, a privately owned orphanage on upper Manhattan, told nineteen-year-old Julia Cavanaugh that the day had started without her. Julia, an orphan herself, now running the place for the owner, brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. She submitted to a second yawn as a twelve-year-old girl hopped onto her bed.

“He’s gonna ask her to marry him, don’t you think, Miss Cavanaugh?”

“Oh, Shelby.” Julia wiped the sleep from her eyes and smiled into the freckled face staring eagerly at her. “Give me a moment to wake before you go asking such things.” Julia stroked the girl’s cheek, her heart seeming to double within her chest with love for the youngster.

The embroidery sampler she’d fallen asleep working on still lay at the end of her bed. She picked it up and eyed the image of a small house she’d copied from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Above the house, she’d stitched the words Home Sweet Home in fancy script. Gazing around the broad room lined with small metal cots and bustling with little-girl chatter, Julia noted the embroidered pillowslips, carefully pressed—albeit dingy—curtains, and dandelions smiling from scavenged jam-jar vases. She’d done her best to make the room pleasant for the girls—and herself. She glanced at their faces and smiled, gladly embracing her role as caretaker.

A less-than-subtle “ahem” from Shelby reminded Julia she’d been asked a question. She glanced at her young charge, still perched on the end of her bed. “What did you ask?”

“Finally.” Shelby eyed her with mock frustration. “I said, do you think they will get married—Mrs. Hamlin and Mr. Gaffin? Haven’t you noticed the way they look at each other?” Shelby’s cheeks hinted of red. Her golden hair was already fixed in a proper bun, her hands and face washed, and her simple dress clean and pressed despite its patches and stray threads.

“Shelby Bruce.” Julia shook her head, as Shelby’s two-year-old sister Beatrice wiggled onto Julia’s lap with a squeal. Julia planted a firm kiss on the top of Bea’s head.

“Married? I don’t think so,” Julia continued. “Mrs. Hamlin would’ve told us—told me—if she was being courted. Mr. Gaffin’s just an old family friend.” Julia wondered where on earth the girl got the notion that their headmistress wished to marry.

Although they have been spending a lot of time together. Julia pushed the thought out of her mind as little Bea shuffled to a stand, planting her pint-sized feet on Julia’s thighs. “Fammy fend!” She pointed a chubby finger at her older sister, Shelby.

“All right, Bea.” Julia plopped the toddler on the floor and swiveled her toward the small bed she shared with Shelby. “Time to straighten your bed.” Then Julia eyed the twins. “Charity, Grace, would you two virtuous girls fetch fresh water for the basin?”

Shelby pushed away from the bed, wrinkled her brow, and thrust her hand behind her as if to support her back—a perfect imitation of their middle-aged headmistress. “Now where did I put my spectacles?” Shelby clucked her tongue as she waddled forward.

Laughter spilled from the lips of the girls around the room. Encouraged, Shelby scratched her head. She plopped down on her bed then hopped up again as if surprised, pulling imaginary spectacles from under her rump. “Oh!” she squealed. “There they are.”

The laughter grew louder, and Julia pursed her lips together to smother the impulse to laugh along with them. She planted her fists on her hips. “That’s enough. All of you know what must be done before breakfast.” The girls’ laughter quieted to soft giggles hidden behind cupped palms as they scattered to do their chores.

Shelby lingered behind, her form now straight and her eyes pensive. “Maybe she forgot to tell you, Miss Cavanaugh.” The young girl gazed up at her. “The way they look at each other—it’s like my ma and pa used to, that’s all.”

Julia folded a stray sandy blond curl behind the girl’s ear. “Don’t worry, my sweet. If Mrs. Hamlin was getting married, we’d be the first to know.”

Julia hoped her own gaze didn’t reflect the sinking disquiet that draped her. Mr. Gaffin was a rich world traveler. If there was any truth to Shelby’s suspicion, Julia couldn’t imagine he’d let Mrs. Hamlin continue to work with orphans. Perhaps they’d get a new headmistress.

Or maybe the girls would be separated, moved to new homes…

If Mrs. Hamlin got married, all their lives would be radically changed. And if Julia had to leave the orphanage, she had no idea what she would do. Julia swept that painful thought away and steadied her gaze at Shelby. She couldn’t hide her true feelings from this girl. Julia took Shelby’s hand and answered as honestly as she could.

“I don’t think she’ll get married, but if she does, God will take care of us, like He always has.” Julia lifted her chin in a smile. “And really, Mrs. Hamlin may be forgetful, but no one could forget that. I sure wouldn’t.”

Ardy, a shy Swedish girl, removed her dirty sheets from a small bed and then approached, taking Julia’s hand. “Don’t ya think you’ll ever be gettin’ married?”

“Actually, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you all….” Julia leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees.

The two girls eyed each other in surprise, and Shelby’s brow furrowed.

“Come closer.” Julia curled a finger, bidding them.

“What is it?” Shelby asked, her eyes glued to Julia.

The girls leaned in. “I’d like to tell you…that there’s a wonderful man who’s asked me to marry him!”

The squeals of two girls erupted, followed by the cheers of nearly three dozen others who’d been quietly listening from the stairwell.

“There is?” Shelby reached forward and squeezed Julia’s hand.

Julia let out a hefty sigh and giggled. “No, you sillies. Well, at least not yet. Someday. Maybe.”

Shelby pouted “But you said… ”

“I said I’d like to tell you I had a man. I’d sure like to, but of course since I don’t, I’m happy to stay here with all of you.”

The girls moaned.

The squeak of the front door down on the first floor of the Revolutionary War–era home-turned-orphanage drew their attention. They waited as Mrs. Hamlin’s familiar chortle filled the air, along with a bash and clang of items—hopefully food and supplies that she’d picked up.

“Julia!” Mrs. Hamlin yelped. “Julia, dear, where are you?”

“Coming.” Julia hurried down the stairs to help the older woman.

Julia neared the bottom of the steps and paused, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of the twinkly-eyed woman sprawled flat on her back. Scattered boxes and bags covered the donated rug.

“Mrs. Hamlin! What on earth? Why didn’t you get a steward to help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.” She cheerfully picked herself up. “I was in such a hurry to show you all what I’d bought. And to tell you my surprise. Such a wonderful surprise.” Julia eyed the boxes and noted they were from R.H. Macy & Co. More than a dozen boxes waited to be opened, and she couldn’t imagine the cost.

“I found just what the girls need, and on sale!” the headmistress exclaimed.

What they need is more food—vitamin drops, too—and maybe a few new schoolbooks. But Julia didn’t dare say it. And somehow God’s hand of providence always provided.

“New clothes, I gather. That is a surprise.”

“But only half of it, dear.” Mrs. Hamlin rubbed her palms expectantly. “I also must tell you my news. The best news an old widow could hope for.”

Julia followed Mrs. Hamlin’s gaze toward the idle youngsters who’d gathered on the staircase to watch. Her eyes locked with Shelby’s, then she quickly looked away. “News?” The muscles in Julia’s stomach tightened.

“Girls,” Julia shooed them away with a wave of her hand, “you know better than to eavesdrop. Off to chores with you. We’ll have breakfast soon.”

The girls started to scurry off, but Mrs. Hamlin halted them with her words.

“No, no,” her high-pitched voice hailed. “Come back. This news is for all of you.” They circled around her, and she tenderly patted their bobbing heads.

“What is it?” Julia wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Mrs. Hamlin’s cheeks so rosy or her eyes so bright.

“I’m getting married!”

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Bride Backfire by Kelly Eileen Hake

What I Thought:

I adore Kelly's writing. Her talent is so wonderful. I completely got lost in the characters and scenes that I didn't even notice the writing. As a writer, I usually find myself paying more attention to how the author put the scene together, moved the plot along etc. Rarely can I just sit back and read without analysing a book to death. So, I say BRAVO, Kelly! You captured my interest to such an extent that I forgot about seeing how you did it! Now I will have to go back and force myself to learn instead of just enjoy. :-)


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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Bride Backfire

Barbour Publishing, Inc (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Books for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kelly Eileen Hake is a reader favorite of Barbour Publishing’s Heartsong Presents book club, where she has released several books. A credentialed secondary English teacher in California, she also has her MA in Writing Popular Fiction. Known for her own style of witty, heartwarming historical romance, Kelly is currently writing the Prairie Promises trilogy, her first full-length novels. Hake is a CBA bestselling author and has earned numerous Heartsong Presents Reader’s Choice Awards. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601763
ISBN-13: 978-1602601765

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Nebraska Territory, March, 1857


“Not again!” Opal Speck breathed the words on a groan so low her brothers couldn’t hear her—a wasted effort since the entire problem lay in having no one around but Larry Grogan.

Even Larry, despite having the temperament of a riled skunk and a smell to rival one, kept the oily gleam from his eyes when the men of her family were in sight. No, the appraising leers and occasional advances were Opal’s private shame. Hers to handle whenever he tried something, and hers to hide from everyone lest the old feud between their families spring to life once more.

“Figured you’d come by here sooner or later, since Ma and Willa are making dandelion jelly.” Larry levered himself on one elbow, pushing away from the broad rock he’d lounged against. He gestured toward the abundance of newly blooming dandelions bordering Speck and Grogan lands, but his gaze fixed on her as he spoke. “Let’s enjoy the sweetness of spring.”

“No.” Opal kept her voice level though her fingers clamped around the handle of her basket so tightly she could feel the wood bite into her flesh. Letting Larry know he upset her would only give him more power, and false bravery to match. Lord, give me strength and protection. “Not today.”

“Look ripe for the plucking to me.” Larry sauntered closer, but Opal wouldn’t give an inch. Everyone knew that when animals sensed fear, they pressed their advantage.

“Dandelion jelly may be sweet, but it takes a lot of work to make it that way. Do it wrong, it’ll be bitter.”

“I like a little tang.” He reached out and tweaked a stray strand of her red hair as he leaned closer. “Keeps things interesting.”

Opal fought not to wrinkle her nose as his breath washed over her. Instead, she tipped her head back and laughed, the note high and shrill to her ears as she stepped away. “Then I’ll leave them to you, Mr. Grogan.”

“Wait.” His hand snaked out and closed around her wrist, but it was the unexpected note of pleading in his voice that brought her up short. “Won’t you call me Larry?”

“I—” Opal couldn’t have found any words had they been sitting in the strawberry patch. She and Larry both stared at where his hand enfolded her wrist. “I don’t think that’s wise.”

“We can’t always be wise.” With a wince, he used his other hand to trace the long, thin scar bisecting his cheek. His hand dropped back to his side when he noticed her watching the motion, but something softened in his face. “You must like me a little, Opal. Otherwise you would’ve left me to die like everyone would expect a Speck to do.”

Not really, no. She didn’t speak the words, her silence stretching thin and strained between them. Larry’s sly innuendos were a threat Opal expected, but Larry Grogan looking as though he cared what she thought of him. . . How could she be prepared for that? Why didn’t I notice his advances only began after his accident—that Larry must have interpreted me helping Dr. Reed patch him up as something more than kindness?

Surprise softened her words when she finally spoke. “I would have helped anyone thrown from the thresher.” Opal’s reference to the incident didn’t need to be more detailed. The man before her would never forget the cause of his scar, just as she’d never forget it was his animosity toward her father that caused him to mess with that machine in the first place.

“Even a Grogan?” He shook his head. “I don’t believe you.”

She would’ve backed away at the desperation written on his face if she could, but she summoned all her courage to stay calm. “Believe it, Larry.”

“What if I don’t want to?” His grip turned painful, bruising her arm. “I know you’d do anything to protect your family. Even deny your own feelings.” Larry moved closer. “And I can prove it with one kiss.”

“My family would kill you.” She tried to tug her wrist free, only to have him jerk her closer.

“We both know you wouldn’t tell them.” Darkness danced in his eyes. “This is between you and me.”

Panic shivered down Opal’s spine at the truth of his words. The one thing she could never do was put her family in danger, and if she told Pa or her brothers, blood would flow until there wasn’t a Speck—or a Grogan—left standing. She stayed still as he leaned in, his grip loosening slightly as his other hand grabbed her chin.

“No!” Exploding into action the second she sensed her opportunity, Opal sent a vicious kick to his shins with one work boot. A swift twist freed her wrist from his grasp, letting her shove her basket into his stomach with all her might.

She barely registered the crack of wood splintering as she sprang away, running for home before Larry caught his breath enough to catch her.

***

“Pa ain’t gonna like this.” Nine-year-old Dave poked his head around the stall partition like a nosy weasel sniffing out trouble.

“That’s why you’re not mentioning it to him.” Adam didn’t normally hold with keeping things from one’s father, but telling Diggory Grogan that another one of their milk cows had fallen prey to the strange, listless bloat that had plagued their cattle for the past few years without explanation would be akin to leaving a lit lantern in a hayloft. The resulting blaze would burn more than the contents of the barn.

“But didn’t he say that the next time one of those Specks poisoned one of our cows he was goin’ to march over there an—”

“We don’t know that anyone’s been poisoning our cows, Dave.” Adam pinned his much younger brother with a fierce glower. “But we do know the Specks have had sick cattle, same as us. The last thing either of us needs is to start fighting again.”

Confusion twisted Dave’s features. “When did we ever stop fighting?”

“There’s different kinds of fighting, Squirt.”

“I know!” Dave scrambled after him as Adam left the barn to go find the meanest rooster he could catch. “There’s name-calling and bare-knuckles and knock-down drag-outs and slaps—”

His list came to an abrupt end when Adam rounded on him. “That’s not what I meant.” He squatted down so he could look his little brother in the eye. “There’s fighting for what you believe in, fighting to protect what’s yours, and there’s fighting just because you like fighting. That’s never a good enough reason, understand?”

“Kind of.” Dave squinted up at him when Adam straightened once more. “How come we fight the Specks, then?”

“A mix of all three.” Willa’s voice provided a welcome interruption. “Our granddaddies both thought the east pasture belonged to them. Then each of our families believed the other was wrong, and now we’re so used to fighting that we blame each other when anything goes wrong.”

“Like the cows?” Dave processed their sister’s explanation so fast it made Adam proud.

“Yep.” He didn’t say more as the three of them each chased down a chicken, ignoring the angry squawks and vicious pecks as best they could. When everyone’s arms were loaded down with feathers and flailing spurs, they headed back to the barn.

“Then I guess it’s a good thing Pa and Larry are out hunting today.” Dave spat out a stray feather. “So we can scare some of the bloat out of Clem before he finds out and blames the Specks?”

“That’s right.” Willa set her jaw. “Because no matter what Larry says or how Pa listens, the Specks aren’t poisoning our cows. And the last thing we need is for him to stir things up over nothing!”

That was the last any of them said for a while, as everyone knew it was useless to try to talk over the sounds of a cow belching. Since Dr. Saul Reed had first tried the treatment two years ago on Sadie—when the bloats began—the Grogans had perfected the process to a fine art.

If a cow grew listless, went off her feed, stopped drinking water, and generally gave signs of illness, they watched for signs of bloat. When baking soda didn’t help, the last hope for expelling the buildup of gas before it stopped the animal’s heart was to get it moving at a rapid pace. On the Grogan farm, that meant terrorizing the cattle with riled roosters.

Dave darted toward the stall and thrust his bird toward the back, spurring Clem to her feet for the first time that whole morning. She rushed out of the partition, heading toward a corner plush with hay, only to be headed off by Willa, whose alarmed chicken made an impressive display of thrashing wings to drive the cow out the barn door.

From there it was a matter of chasing her around the barnyard and up the western hill—the theory being that elevating her front end made it easier for the gas to rise out—until the endeavor succeeded or the entire group dropped from exhaustion. Thankfully, they’d yet to fail.

To an outsider, Adam Grogan would be hard-pressed to explain why leading a slobbering, stumbling, belching cow back to the barn would put a smile on his face, but Willa and Dave shared his feeling of triumph. Sure, Clem might not look like much of a prize at the moment, but she’d been hard-won. Better yet, they’d averted having Pa and Larry ride over to the Speck place with fired tempers and loaded shotguns.

Much the way Murphy and Elroy Speck were riding toward them right now. Adam tensed, taking stock of the situation. With Pa and Larry out for the day, it was up to him to take care of things.

“Stay here.” He snatched the shotgun from the wall of the barn and rolled the door closed, pushing Dave back inside when he tried to squirm out. “I said stay. And don’t go up in the hayloft either, or I’ll tan your hide later.” With the door shut, Adam slid the deadbolt in place, effectively locking his sister and younger brother in the barn. . .and hopefully out of trouble.

He strode to meet the Specks, intent on putting as much distance from their stopping place and his family as humanly possible. While Adam didn’t hold with the idea of a feud and did everything in his power to maintain peace, he wouldn’t stake the safety of a single Grogan on any Speck’s intention to do the same.

“Ho.” Murphy Speck easily brought his horse to a halt, followed closely by his second-eldest son. The two of them sat there, shotguns laid across their saddles, silent as they looked down on Adam.

Adam, for his part, rested his firearm over his shoulder, vigilant without being hostile, refusing to offer false welcome. Specks had ventured onto Grogan land; it was for them to state their business. Adam wouldn’t put himself in the weaker position by asking, and only a fool would provoke them by demanding answers.

Good thing Larry’s not here. The stray thought would have earned a smile under any other circumstance.

“Where’s your brother?” Murphy’s gaze slid to toward the corners of his eyes, as though expecting someone to sneak up on him.

Not a good beginning. He sure as shooting wasn’t about to tell two armed Specks he was the only grown Grogan around the place. Adam just raised a brow in wordless recrimination at the older man’s rudeness.

“What Pa means to say,” Elroy’s tone held a tinge of apology, though his stance in the saddle lost none of its steel, “is that Pete’s seen your brother on our land a few times this past week.”

“Oh?” I knew he’d been up to no good when he hadn’t been helping fertilize the fields. Something else stank. Adam’s jaw clenched.

“Some of our cattle have the bloat.” Murphy’s statement held accusation, though his words didn’t. The man walked a fine line.

“Ours, too.” Adam lifted his chin. “Must be a common cause.”

“Common cause or no, seemed maybe a reminder was in order.” Elroy’s level gaze held a deeper meaning.

His father wasn’t half so diplomatic. “The next time a Grogan steps foot on Speck land without express invitation, he won’t be walking away from it.”

Adam ignored the sharp drop in his stomach at the irrefutable proof tensions were wound tight enough to snap. “Good fences make good neighbors.” He gave Speck a curt nod.

“Fences and family, Grogan.” Murphy’s parting words came through loud and clear. “Watch yours a bit closer.”

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Word count...


Wahoo! I'm at 2,020 words for November so far. Making it a total of 15,462 words for Cheat Codes for Life.

What glee! I'm so excited. This novel just seems to be writing itself. I can't wait to share it with everyone. Hopefully, we can have it edited and out a few months after F.A.I.R.I.E.S. in 2010.

Keep praying for me. :-D

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Cheat Codes Update

Well, I've decided to sort of join in on the Nanowrimo thing. But I'm doing it on my own with an already started novel, Cheat Codes for Life. So my starting word cound is 13,442. Today I wrote 1,043 words to make the count 14,485. Horrah!

I'm really enjoying this novel. The main character is extremely sarcastic, but in a funny way, not mean. Everything is spinning out of control, but she has finally found a little hope in Jake-the-Jock.

Anywho, please keep up your prayers for me. I really want to finish this novel so that I can work on F.A.I.R.I.E.S. book two. :-D

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Emmy's Equal by Macia Gruver

What I Thought:

I stepped out of my comfort zone to read this book. It is a Western Romance...and I actually really enjoyed it. The main character is a spunky and fiesty young woman who fights with her old non-Christian self. It is really cute how she comes to realize that she just can't go back to being the carnal, self-loving princess that she was before she became a Christian. The love interest is a great blend of Native American and Hispanic cultures. He is adorable. I had a lot of fun reading this book.


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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Emmy’s Equal

Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Marcia Gruver lives with her husband in Huffman, Texas, and has published various articles, poems, and devotionals. Her novel, Love Never Fails (renamed Chasing Charity), won third place in the 2007 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest. Marcia is a member of ACFW, Fellowship of Christian Writers (FCW), and The Writers View.

Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (October 9, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602602077
ISBN-13: 978-1602602076

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Humble, Texas, August, 1906


The stagnant well appeared bottomless, as dank and murky as a grave. Emmy rested her arms on the cold, jagged stones and leaned to peer into the abyss. Mama’s embroidered lace hankie, shimmering in the meager light, hung from an outcropping of rock about four feet down. Narrowing her eyes, she peered at the spot of white that stood out from the surrounding darkness and heaved a sigh, stirring the fetid air below and raising a noxious odor that took her breath.

She pushed up her sleeves and blasted a droopy blonde ringlet from her eyes with a frustrated puff of air. There was no help for it—at the risk of certain death, she had to retrieve that handkerchief.

A figure loomed, drawing alongside her with a grunt.

She jumped, and her heart shot past her throat. Chest pounding, she wasted a glare on the dark profile, noticing for the first time a scatter of lines around his eyes and tiny gray curlicues in his sideburns.

“Nash! I nearly leapt over the side.” She swatted his arm. “I’ve asked you to stop sneaking up on me. I’ve a good mind to fit you with a cowbell.”

A chuckle rumbled from his chest, as deep as the chasm. “I didn’t go to scare you, Miss Emmy.” He bent his lanky body so far she feared he’d tumble headfirst into the never-ending shaft. “Say, what we looking for inside this hole?”

“We’re not looking for anything. I’ve already found it.” Emmy clutched his shirtsleeve and pulled him away. “Go fetch me a lantern, and be quick about it.” She tucked her chin in the direction of the palomino pony languishing under a nearby oak, nibbling at the circle of high grass around the trunk. “Take Trouble. He’ll be quicker than walking.”

Nash frowned and rubbed the knuckles of one hand along his temple, as if an ache had sprung up there. “What you need a lantern for, with the sun up and shining the past five hours? There’s plenty of light to see.”

She braced herself and pointed. “Not down there.”

Nash’s sleepy eyes flew open. His startled gaze bounced along her finger to the circular wall of weathered stones. “Down there?” He took a cautious step back. “What’s in this sour old pit that might concern you?”

Emmy swallowed hard. She could trust Nash with anything but dreaded his reaction all the same. “It’s. . .one of mama’s hankies.” She squeezed her eyes shut and ducked her head.

His shoulders eased, and he ambled over to gaze inside. “Is that all?”

If only it were. Emmy risked a peek at him. “You don’t understand.”

He winced as if she’d spoken a bad omen. “Uh, uh. Not from her good batch? Them she’s always cackling about?”

Emmy cringed and nodded.

The delicate, lacy linens held an uncommon depth of meaning for Emmy’s mama. Hand embroidered in Germany by her grandmother then brought to the Americas and placed in Mama’s hope chest, they represented heart, hearth, and homeland to Magdalena Dane. In equal measure, they represented distress, discontent, and discord to her only daughter, because the bothersome bits of cloth seemed determined to cause Emmy grief.

Nash’s stunned expression hardened into an accusing glare. “Why, Miss Emmy? Why you done brought about such misery? You ain’t s’posed to touch ’em, and you know it.” His graying brows fluttered up and down, like two moths bent on escape. “There’s scarce few left, and your mama blames you for them what’s missing.”

She moaned and flapped her hands. “I didn’t mean to take the silly thing. It was warm when I rode out this morning. I knew I’d likely sweat, so I snagged a hankie from the clothesline. I never looked at it until a few minutes ago. That’s how this terrible mishap came about. I held it up as I rode, staring in disbelief. Trouble was galloping across the yard when the wind caught it and. . .” She motioned behind her. “The willful rag drifted down the well before I could stop the horse and chase after it.”

Emmy lowered her eyes then peered up at him through her lashes. “None of this is my fault, Nash. Papa should’ve covered this smelly cistern months ago, and those wretched handkerchiefs have a mind of their own.”

The hint of a smile played around Nash’s lips. “If so, they harbor a mighty poor opinion of you.”

She wrinkled her nose at him.

Wagging his head, he rested the back of his hand on his side. “In all my years of working for your family, of all the fits I’ve seen your mama pitch, the worst have been over the loss of them fancy scraps of cloth.” He shuddered. “Miss Emmy, I’d be mighty grateful if you’d wait and break the news to her after I leave for the day. She gon’ be powerful upset.”

Emmy held up and wiggled a finger. “On the contrary. I won’t be upsetting Mama.”

“How you figure that?”

“Because there’s no need to tell her.”

Nash propped his elbow in one hand and rubbed his chin with the other. “Missy, I thought you was done telling lies and scheming. Don’t forget you’re a saint of God now.”

A saint of God. Yes, she was, through no fault of her own. Like Elijah’s fiery chariot, God had swirled into Emmy’s life in a weak moment and delivered her from herself. Not that she minded His day-to-day presence. In fact, she rather enjoyed the peace He brought. It was during times of temptation when she found the constant stirring in her heart to do the right thing a bit of a bother. Yet no wonder, really. In the past, she’d had precious little practice in doing the right thing.

She blinked up at Nash. “I have no plans to lie, and I won’t need to scheme. We’re simply going to return great-grandmother’s hankie to Mama’s clothesline, washed, rinsed, and fresh as a newborn calf.”

Nash stared then shook his head. “No ma’am. You jus’ forget about what we gon’ do. Question is how are you gon’ pull it off?”

“I’ll show you.” She shooed him with her hands. “Run fetch that lantern like I asked and leave the rest to me.”

Still shaking his head, Nash mounted Trouble and laid in his heels. The horse bolted the short distance across the yard to the well-kept shed tucked behind Emmy’s two-story house. With a furtive glance toward the porch, Nash eased the door open and slipped inside.

While she waited, Emmy watched a rowdy band of crows swarm Nash’s cornfield. The black bandits bickered and pecked for position before settling in for a meal, oblivious to the mop-headed stick Nash had dressed in a ragged shirt and floppy hat and then shoved in the ground. She dared not call his attention to the culprits or he’d bluster after them, shouting and waving his arms like a demented windmill, leaving her to cope alone with her pressing dilemma.

She jerked her gaze from the birds when Nash rode up and slid off Trouble to the ground, a lighted lantern in his hand.

Handing over the light with a flourish, he lowered one brow and pinned her with a squinty look. “Here’s what you asked for. Jus’ be sure to leave me plumb out of the story when you go explaining yourself to your mama.”

He turned to go, but Emmy caught hold of his shirttail. “Not so fast. I’m not done with you.”

Nash covered his ears and reeled away. “Don’t tell me no mo’. I ain’t seen nothing, and I ain’t heard nothing. If anybody needs me, I’ll be feeding the chickens.”

Emmy aimed a haughty laugh at his back. “It’s too late for that. You’re in up to your hat, and it’s no less punishment than you deserve for sneaking about all the time.”

Nash dug in his heels and stood facing the grove of loblolly pine at the edge of the yard, his body stiff as a post.

Repentant, she softened her voice to a plea. “I’m sorry, Nash. I had no call to utter such a thing. It’s just. . .I can’t do this without you.”

Arms dangling at his sides, he tipped his head toward the sky and whispered something, a prayer no doubt, before turning to face her. “What you want me to do?”

She peppered him with grateful kisses then grabbed his hand. “Come over here.” Hauling him to the gaping cavity, she lowered the lamp. “See? There it is.”

They gazed at the only bright spot in the oppressive gloom, their ability to see inside the shaft made no better by the frail circle of yellow light.

Nash shrugged and drew back from the side. “Too far down. May as well wave it goodbye then go fess up to what you done.”

Emmy gripped his arm. “Nonsense. We can get it out of there.”

“How, short of fishing it out with a cane pole? And I got no hooks.” He scratched his head. “I reckon I could take my hammer and pound a bend in a nail.”

She shook her head. “Too risky. If the hankie slips off it’ll settle to the bottom, and that’ll be the end of it.” She drew a determined breath. “I have a better idea.”

Nash’s eyebrows rose on his forehead, reaching new heights, even for him. “What sort of idea? Harebrained or foolhardy? Them’s the only two kinds you have.”

She swallowed hard and fingered the wooden bucket sitting on the wall. “I’m going to straddle this, and you’ll lower me down to fetch it.”

The shaggy brows bested their last mark. “You cain’t mean it, Miss Emmy.”

“I do so.”

“Then your idea is both harebrained and foolhardy. You must be plain tetched up under them pretty white locks. S’pose that rope snaps in two?”

“Oh, pooh.” She patted the heavy hemp coiled around the crank. “This rope is thick and sound.” She pointed over her shoulder at the horse. “You could lower Trouble down that well.”

He nodded. “Yes’m. That’s exactly what I’d be doing.” He jerked off his weathered hat and dashed it against his leg. “Don’t ask me to put you in that kind of danger. No, missy. I won’t do it. Not for nothing in this wide world.”

Touched, Emmy smiled at the man who’d been like a father to her over the years, far more of a parent than her own papa, who didn’t stay home often enough to have much practice at the role. She took Nash’s hand and squeezed it. “I won’t be in any danger. As long as you’re holding the handle, I know I’ll be safe.” She peered up into his sulky brown eyes. “You know if you don’t help me I’ll just find a way to do it myself. I have to get that hankie.”

He gaped at her. “The silly thing ain’t worth dying for, is it? Your mama has fussed at you before, and you lived to tell the tale. Why is this time so all-fired special?”

She squared around to face him. “I can’t have her angry about anything just now. I’m planning to ask permission to go to St. Louis when Mama travels with Aunt Bertha to South Texas. It’ll be hard enough to convince her as it is. If she gets in a snit, my plan is doomed.”

“Why they going off so far?”

“It’s Aunt Bertha’s idea. Now that she has money, she’s determined to go into the cattle business. She’s bent on learning all she can. Papa knows a very successful rancher down south who’s willing to teach her everything he knows.”

“Cain’t you jus’ stay home?”

“They’ll be gone for a month or better. Mama refuses to leave me here alone for that long, and I’d much prefer going to see Charity.”

Nash smiled and nodded. “ ’Specially with her jus’ done birthing the little one.”

Emmy beamed. “Exactly. I can help Charity bring him home.”

A thrill coursed through her at the thought of seeing Charity and Buddy’s new baby boy. Emmy and Charity were as close as twin sisters, best friends like their mamas had always been. Emmy’s mama and Aunt Bertha had grown up together in Jefferson before moving to Humble.

Last year, a handsome young oilman came to town and found oil on Aunt Bertha’s land. Charity wound up married to him and soon left for St. Louis to meet his parents. When Buddy found out she was expecting, he kept her in the city so she’d be close to good medical care.

Not a day had passed that Emmy didn’t think of Charity and long to see her. She was coming home next month, bringing little Thad to meet the family.

Nash narrowed his eyes. “You ain’t jus’ trying to sneak off to St. Louis to see that oilman friend of Mistah Buddy’s, are you? Don’t think I didn’t see you making eyes at him the whole time that preacher was trying to marry off Miss Charity.”

Emmy whirled. “Who? Mr. Ritter?” She dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. “Jerry Ritter was just a passing fancy.”

Nash raised a cynical brow.

“Oh, pooh, Nash! You stop that!” She fiddled the row of tiny buttons on her sleeve. “Besides. . .Aunt Bertha claims Mr. Ritter was recently betrothed to a childhood sweetheart.” She flicked off an insect from the cuff of her blouse and dashed away her humiliation with the same resolve. “Therefore, my desire to be in St. Louis has nothing to do with him. I just need to see Charity. If I get into any more trouble, Mama’s bound to haul me with them to that dreadful desert town instead. If she does, I’ll just dry up along with it and perish. I mean it!”

Grinding the toe of his oversized boot in the dirt, Nash sighed and shifted his weight. “I don’t know, Miss Emmy. . .”

Emmy stifled a grin. She had him. “I’ll be just fine. I promise. Now help me climb up.”

Still mumbling his objections, he offered an elbow to Emmy so she could pull up and sit on the uneven stones. Unfastening the buttoned flap on her split skirt, she swung her legs over and settled on the side, trying hard not to look past her boots. “Turn your head while I sit astride the pail. It won’t look so dainty in this outfit.”

Nash gazed toward the field, obviously too distracted to notice the raiding crows.

Still clinging to his arm, Emmy held her breath and pulled the dangling rope closer, guiding it between her legs. “All right, I’m ready. Lean your weight into the handle. I’m about to push off.”

Nash shifted his gaze to the sky. “Oh, sweet Jesus. Please protect this chil’.”

Holding her breath, she scooted from the edge, squealing when her body spun and dipped about a foot. “Nash! Have you got it?”

“I’ve got it. Stop squirming now. You heavier than you look.”

Emmy forced herself to still, more afraid than she’d expected to be. She felt more than saw the yawning gulf, a great gaping mouth poised to swallow her whole. “Hand me the lantern and then you can lower me. But go slowly, for heaven’s sake.”

She breathed a prayer as she spiraled past the opening and descended. Glancing up, she bit her lip and watched the rope unwind from the wobbly reel, outlined by a circle of light. Misguided but determined white roots that had pushed through cracks in the mortar groped at her, snagging her hem and sleeves. Crisscrossed nets of taught, silky threads offered whispers of resistance before giving way and sticking to the exposed parts of her legs. Emmy held the soft glow of the lamp closer to the side, shuddering when eight-legged bodies skittered in every direction. She gritted her teeth, suppressing a shriek and the urge to order Nash to haul her out of the wide-awake nightmare.

You can do this. Just a little more and you’ll be there. Three more turns and you’ll have Mama’s hankie in your hands. This will all be worth it then.

Exhaling her relief, she drew even with the jutting rock that had caught the precious heirloom. Holding the lantern out of the way, she swayed her body until the motion brought her closer to the wall.

She snatched at the white spot. Instead of soft linen, she felt thick, sticky padding. In place of the crush of a napkin gathered in her palm, there was the unmistakable writhing of something alive.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Love is a Battlefield by Annalisa Daughety

What I Thought:

This was a fun read. One of those that entertains and leaves you smiling. I've never been to Shiloh National Military Park, so it was really interesting to hear all about it through the eyes of a park ranger. I look forward to the rest of the series and more National Parks!


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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Love is a Battlefield

Barbour Books (October 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Publishing for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Annalisa Daughety lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where she works as an event planner. After attending Freed-Hardeman University, where she majored in American Studies, Annalisa worked at Shiloh National Military Park as a park ranger. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and loves gardening, shopping, and watching sports. For more information, visit her Web site at .

Visit the author's website.





Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602604770
ISBN-13: 978-1602604773

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


If someone had told Kristy O’Neal that the battlefield at Shiloh would see another casualty nearly one hundred and fifty years after the battle ended, she’d have thought they were crazy.

Yet, two weeks ago, one last soldier had been injured on the majestic field. And Kristy had the battle scars to prove it. Admittedly, her wound was emotional, not physical, but she still wondered if the splintered pieces of her heart might be tougher to knit back together than a bullet-shattered bone.

Ready or not, her recovery time was over, so she squared her shoulders and headed back onto the hallowed ground. Never let it be said that Kristy couldn’t soldier up with the best of them. Ranger hat firmly in place and gold badge glinting in the May sunlight, she marched briskly to the visitor center.

“Morning, Kristy.” Ranger Owen Branam stopped putting money in the cash register slots long enough to nod in her direction. “You have a nice trip?” He closed the drawer, finished with his preparations for the day’s visitors.

Nice trip? A cruise spent faking allergies to explain away tears. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

“Lovely.” she managed what she hoped was a convincing smile. “The weather was great.” Scooting past him, she attempted to make it to her office without further questioning.

“Umm. Kristy?”

The apprehension in the older man’s voice made her stop in her tracks. She slowly turned to look back at Owen.

He ran his finger around the neck of his shirt as if he had a little too much starch in the collar. “The chief asked me to have you go straight up to his office when you got in.” He motioned toward the counter. “You can leave your things here. I’ll keep an eye on them while you’re upstairs.”

Only five minutes into her morning and her plan to fly as far under the radar as possible had already gone out the window. So much for the low-key first day back she’d hoped for.

“Thanks, Owen.” Kristy put her hat on the counter and tucked her purse underneath the desk.

As she got to the top of the stairs, an unfamiliar voice called out a greeting to Owen. Twisting around, she peeked over the railing. Wow. A Johnny Depp lookalike was helping Owen straighten the brochures. The second thing she noticed about him, after his movie star resemblance, was the park service uniform he wore. Surely, he wasn’t a new employee. She’d only been gone a few weeks. Things didn’t usually happen that quickly at Shiloh National Military Park.

“Glad to have you back.”

The gruff voice of Chief Ranger Hank Strong made her jump and turn around.

She felt her face grow hot. Had he been watching her ogle Ranger Depp? She cleared her throat.

“Glad to be back.” She followed him into his office and perched on one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs in front of his desk. Her gaze skimmed over a hodgepodge of furniture, maps, and historical books. None of the furnishings matched, except for Hank’s oversized desk and equally oversized chair that had always reminded her of a king’s throne.

“Good, good.” Hank settled himself behind the desk and peered at her over his round bifocals. “Look, Kristy. There’s no easy way to tell you this.” For a moment, an expression that looked like uncertainty flitted over his weathered face.

Uh-oh. As befitted his name, Hank Strong was always sure of himself. Whatever he was about to say, she wasn’t going to like it.

“I told you before you left on your trip there’d be a job waiting for you when you got back,” Hank paused.

Kristy could tell he was choosing his words carefully.

She nodded. “Yes. And believe me, I’m so grateful.” When she’d turned in her two-week notice, it had felt like she was letting him down, letting the park down. After all, she’d begun working at Shiloh while she was still in college. It was the only place she’d ever worked—or ever wanted to work, for that matter. After her plans had abruptly changed, she’d been relieved when Hank stepped in and told her there was still a place for her at Shiloh.

“Well, there was one thing I didn’t mention.”

“Oh?” Why do his words sound so ominous?

“By the time I found out you weren’t moving and were still available to work, your position had been filled.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Kristy. The paperwork had already gone through. There was nothing that could be done.”

She tried to catch her breath. Knowing she was at least able to come back to work at the park was the only thing that had gotten her through the past two weeks. “But you said. . .” Her voice trailed off as she willed herself not to panic.

“I know. I said I had a position for you. And I do.” He leaned back a little in his chair, visibly relieved to have the bad news off his chest. “You’re welcome to stay on as a seasonal ranger.”

Seasonal? That was where she’d started, nine years earlier, the summer after her freshman year of college. She glanced around, hoping for a paper bag she could breathe into. Of course, what she needed most was a rewind button that would allow her to go back in time and decide not to quit her job. But if she could travel back to the past, knowing what she did now, there wouldn’t have been a reason to leave Shiloh in the first place.

“You want me to be a seasonal?” Kristy’s voice squeaked. “What about my salary?”

A frown drew his bushy brows together. “There’ll be a pay cut. And you’ll move to the office shared by the seasonal staff. In fact, Owen has already put your box of office doodads in there.”

If she hadn’t been so shell-shocked, she probably would’ve laughed at his word for the contents of the box she’d left in her former office weeks earlier. Instead, all she could think was how she’d planned to stop by and pick her things up once the movers arrived. But the moving van had been permanently rerouted.

“You can still live in park housing. I know you’ve already packed most of your things, but Owen said he didn’t think you’d actually moved anything out yet.” He handed her a manila folder. “Your decision, kiddo. We’d love to keep you around. You’re a great park ranger. But I understand if you want to go in a different direction now.”

She took the file from him and glanced at the paperwork inside. The contents of the folder would effectively help to move her back down the career ladder she’d been climbing.

“What happens in September?” The seasonal positions at Shiloh ran from Memorial Day through Labor Day. And since they were only a few days shy of Memorial Day, she figured she should feel lucky there was even a seasonal position still available. They usually filled pretty quickly.

“Well.” He leaned back even farther and pressed his fingertips together. “At that juncture you’ll have a few options. Perhaps a permanent position will open here. Or we can look around at other parks and try to get you a transfer.”

Or I can leave the park service.

He rose to his feet. “If you want to think about it for a day or two, that’s fine.”

She knew Hank well enough to know that giving her time to consider the offer was his way of being sympathetic. Despite her trembling legs, she managed to stand. “Thank you,” she mumbled and scurried for the stairs, her mind spinning like a recently fired cannonball.

A permanent position opening at Shiloh was pretty much out of the question. Most of the rangers planned to stay until retirement age, some of them even longer. And she wasn’t interested in a transfer. This was the park she loved. Kristy had grown up in nearby Savannah, Tennessee, and some of her earliest memories were of the cannons and monuments at Shiloh.

Owen avoided eye contact with her as she descended the stairs.

Thanks a lot, buddy.

He’d obviously known what the meeting was going to be about, but hadn’t had the nerve to give her a warning before she went upstairs. Kristy couldn’t blame him though. No one liked to be the bearer of bad news.

And with her newfound knowledge, the mystery of the unfamiliar ranger was solved. The Johnny Depp lookalike was the ranger who now had her position. Not to mention her office.

She silently gathered her hat and purse from the front desk and took them to the room reserved for seasonal staff. As she passed the office she used to occupy, a fleeting glance told her that Ranger Depp wasn’t inside. The seasonal office, if it could even be called an office, was full of old desks and equipment. Kristy turned on the light and took in the sparsely decorated white walls. It was a far cry from the cheerful yellow she’d painted her former office last year. Thankfully, the other members of the seasonal staff wouldn’t arrive until Monday. At least I should have peace until Memorial Day. She could even move the desks and junk, buy some paint for the walls, and live out the next few days in Pretend Everything’s Okay Land.

Except, eventually, she’d have to face reality.

She flipped on the computer and silently tapped her fingers on the desk as she waited forever for it to boot up.

Can I do this? Can I take a step down in pay and status? Seasonals were at the low end of the totem pole. She remembered those days all too well. Getting assigned the tasks no one else wanted to do and being expected to do them without grumbling. Would they do that to her again? Or would she continue to be treated as permanent staff, despite the demotion?

Demotion. Ouch.

Either way, it wouldn’t be pleasant.

She glanced down at the box of her things on the floor next to the computer, and tears flooded her eyes. Empty picture frames peeked out from the box flaps. The pictures that had once been in them were nowhere in sight. Someone had wanted to spare her feelings today. Either that, or they didn’t want to be stuck with an emotional female to console.

The frames might’ve been without pictures, but Kristy knew what they’d once held. Her heart pounded as she grabbed all three frames and tossed them in the trashcan, taking unexpected pleasure in the sight and sound of shattering glass. A yellow and white wad under a large shard caught her eye. She couldn’t resist carefully fishing it out of the can, even though she knew better.

Kristy unwrinkled the ball and smoothed it out on the old, beat-up desk, running her hand over the creases in the paper. Fancy paper, as Owen called it months ago when he’d first seen it. Her vision blurred with fresh tears, but she didn’t need to read the words to know what they said.

For a long moment, she stared down at the engraved invitation.

To her wedding.