Christmas in September!

I just finished reading, A Lancaster County Christmas, by Suzanne Woods Fisher.  It didn’t matter that we were having our own mini heat wave and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt while sitting under the ceiling fan — it was Christmas and a blizzard had stranded me in a Lancaster County home with two very different couples.  I was totally transfixed as they got to know each other and help each other discover and/or reconnect with what matters most in life.

Mattie and Sol Reihl will be remembered by faithful fans of Suzanne’s Lancaster County Secrets seriesIn A Lancaster County Christmas we reconnect with them 4 years into their marriage.  With a snowstorm raging outside they welcome an Englisher couple into their home and as they learn about the differences in their cultures, they also learn …. Okay, you’re going to have to read the book because I don’t want to post any spoilers.  It is a great story — pick a copy up for yourself and pick up a couple more to give as gifts.  While you’re at it, you might as well get the entire Lancaster County Secrets series.

~*~

It’s Christmas in September!

To celebrate the release of her first Christmas book, Suzanne Woods Fisher has teamed up with her publisher, Revell, to bring you the “Christmas in September” iPad Giveaway! The winner will be announced on 9/27 at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party! Details below. Tell your friends and join in the fun (9/7-9/27).
Oh and be sure to follow the blog tour here – many of the bloggers have copies of the book to giveaway! 

Suzanne and Revell will be presenting one merry winner with a Christmas Prize Pack (valued at over $600):

  • A Brand New iPad 2 with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to iTunes
  • A copy of A Lancaster County Christmas

To enter, click one of the icons below. But, hurry the giveaway ends on 9/26.

But, wait! There’s more! The winner will be announced at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party on 9/27 at Suzanne’s author page. During the party she’ll be revealing something *BIG* – you won’t want to miss it. She’ll also be hosting a book chat, trivia contest and giving away a few early Christmas presents! Hope to see you there.

 

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

About the book:

Jaime and C. J. Fitzpatrick began their married life as most couples do–in love and looking forward to a bright future together. But four years later they’ve drifted apart and are almost ready to call it quits.

Mattie Riehl was hoping to give her husband Sol the Christmas gift they have both longed for–news that a baby was on the way. But as usual, she is disappointed. The holidays bring an acute awareness to Mattie that her dream of a big family isn’t likely to become a reality.

Then a winter storm raging outside blows the Fitzpatricks into the Riehl home–and into a much slower pace of life. Can these two couples from different worlds help each other understand the true meaning of love this Christmas?

With her trademark plot twists and attention to detail, Suzanne Woods Fisher offers readers a beautiful Christmas story of love, forgiveness, and what truly matters in life.

About Suzanne:

Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised Plain. She has many, many Plain relatives living in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and travels back to Pennsylvania, as well as to Ohio, a couple of times each year for research.

Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world. In both her fiction and non-fiction books, she has an underlying theme: You don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate many of their principles–simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily– into your life.

When Suzanne isn’t writing or bragging to her friends about her first new grandbaby (!), she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne’s way of thinking, you just can’t take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in its mouth.

Suzanne can be found on-line at: www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.

And don’t forget to check what other bloggers are saying about the book.  Some of them even have free copies to give away!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LitFuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sarah Sundin’s Blue Skies Tomorrow

Wings of Glory

Best Book in the series! That’s because each book just gets better than the last!  Sarah Sundin’s writing is so vivid and her characters are so well rounded, that I actually felt as though I was part of the story.  I worried, I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I held my breath, I longed to give advice ….. I grew as close to Ray and Helen as any reader can get to story characters.  This story was so amazing — all three books of it — that I didn’t want it to end and despite a wonderful conclusion, I felt somewhat bereft when I turned the last page.   I will definitely be looking for Sarah’s next book!

~*~

To celebrate the release of Blue Skies Tomorrow, the final installment of the Wings of Glory series, Sarah is giving one lucky winner A Vintage Kindle Prize Package! 

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

One winner will receive:

  • Kindle with Wi-Fi
  • Handmade vintage apron for you and a friend (see a photo here)
  • Blue Skies Tomorrow (for Kindle)
To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, giveaway ends on 9/10. Winner will be announced on 9/12 at Sarah Sundin’s blog. Details and official rules can be found when entering the contest.
Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

About the Author:
Sarah Sundin is an on-call hospital pharmacist and holds a BS in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco. Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children. This is her second novel.  For more info please visit her website at www.sarahsundin.com!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LitFuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The One Who Waits for Me, by Lori Copeland

I have been a Lori Copeland fan for years. Each of her books is better than the one before and The One Who Waits for Me is no exception. One can tell by the way the story unfolds that Lori has been blessed by God’s perfect timing and has experienced his surprising providence during both good and bad times.

All of the characters in The One Who Waits for Me are well-drawn and engaging. I had no trouble following the story despite the large cast of characters. I never lost the thread of the narrative or became confused over who was who. I especially loved the cultural diversity of the characters, and the tasteful, understated way Lori presented the more worldly aspects of the story.

The very best part of a romance novel (in my opinion) is the end of the story, and Lori Copeland didn’t disappoint x3. I won’t share particulars but trust me, if you love romantic endings, The One Who Waits for Me will more than satisfy you. That doesn’t mean you won’t love the beginning and the middle of the book as well. This book was so great, I read it twice and it is still on my book shelf. Lori Copeland books are always keepers.

~*~

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 One Who Waits for Me

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books’ Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This new series from bestselling author Lori Copeland, set in North Carolina three months after the Civil War ends, illuminates the gift of hope even in chaos, as the lives of six engaging characters intersect and unfold with the possibility of faith, love, and God’s promise of a future.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736930183
ISBN-13: 978-0736930185

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

 

Joanie?”
Beth’s sister stirred, coughing.Beth gently shook Joanie’s shoulder again, and the young woman opened her eyes, confusion shining in their depths.

“Pa?”

“He passed a few minutes ago. Trella will be waiting for us.”

Joanie lifted her wrist to her mouth and smothered sudden sobbing. “I’m scared, Beth.”

“So am I. Dress quickly.”

The young woman slid out of bed, her bare feet touching the dirt-packed floor. Outside, the familiar sound of pond frogs nearly drowned out soft movements, though there was no need to be silent any more. Ma had preceded Pa in death two days ago. Beth and Joanie had been waiting, praying for the hour of Pa’s death to come swiftly. Together, they lifted their father’s silent form and gently carried him out the front door. He was a slight man, easy to carry. Beth’s heart broke as they took him to the shallow grave they had dug the day before. Ma’s fever had taken her swiftly. Pa had held on for as long as he could. Beth could still hear his voice in her ear: “Take care of your sister, little Beth.” He didn’t have to remind her that there was no protection at all now to save either of them from Uncle Walt and his son, Bear. Beth had known all of her life that one day she and Joanie would have to escape this place—a place of misery.

It was her father’s stubborn act that started the situation Beth and Joanie were immersed in. Pa had hid the plantation deed from his brother and refused to tell him where it was. Their land had belonged to a Jornigan for two hundred years, but Walt claimed that because he was the older brother and allowed Pa to live on his land the deed belonged to him. Pa was a proud man and had no respect for his brother, though his family depended on Walt for a roof over their heads and food on their table. For meager wages they worked Walt’s fields, picked his cotton, and suffered his tyranny along with the other workers. Pa took the location of the hidden deed to his grave—almost. Walt probably figured Beth knew where it was because Pa always favored her. And she did, but she would die before she shared the location with her vile uncle.

By the light of the waning moon the women made short work of placing the corpse in the grave and then filling the hole with dirt. Finished, they stood back and Joanie bowed her head in prayer. “Dear Father, thank You for taking Ma and Pa away from this world. I know they’re with You now, and I promise we won’t cry.” Hot tears streaming down both women’s cheeks belied her words.

Returning to the shanty, Joanie removed her nightshirt and put on boy’s clothes. Dressed in similar denim trousers and a dark shirt, Beth turned and picked up the oil lamp and poured the liquid carefully around the one-room shanty. Yesterday she had packed Ma’s best dishes and quilts and dragged them to the root cellar. It was useless effort. She would never be back here, but she couldn’t bear the thought of fire consuming Ma’s few pretty things. She glanced over her shoulder when the stench of fuel heightened Joanie’s cough. The struggle to breathe had been a constant companion since her younger sister’s birth.

Many nights Beth lay tense and fearful, certain that come light Joanie would be gone. Now that Ma and Pa were dead, Joanie was the one thing left on this earth that held meaning for Beth. She put down the lamp on the table. Walking over to Joanie, she buttoned the last button on her sister’s shirt and tugged her hat brim lower.

“Do you have everything?”

“Yes.”

“Then go outside and wait.”

Nodding, Joanie paused briefly beside the bed where Pa’s tall frame had been earlier. She hesitantly reached out and touched the empty spot. “May you rest in peace, Pa.”

Moonlight shone through the one glass pane facing the south. Beth shook her head. “He was a good man. It’s hard to believe Uncle Walt had the same mother and father.”

Joanie’s breath caught. “Pa was so good and Walt is so…evil.”

“If it were up to me, he would be lying in that grave outside the window, not Pa.”

Beth tried to recall one single time in her life when Walt Jornigan had ever shown an ounce of mercy to anyone. Certainly not to his wife when she was alive. Certainly not to Beth or Joanie. If Joanie was right and there was a God, what would Walt say when he faced Him? She shook the thought aside. She had no compassion for the man or reverence for the God her sister believed in and worshipped.

“We have to go now, Joanie.”

“Yes.” She picked up her Bible from the little table beside the rocking chair and then followed Beth outside the shanty, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Pausing, Joanie bent and succumbed to a coughing spasm. Beth helplessly waited, hoping her sister could make the anticipated trip through the cotton fields. The women had planned for days now to escape if Ma and Pa both passed.

Beth asked gently, “Can you do this?”

Joanie held up a restraining hand. “Just need…a minute.”

Beth wasn’t certain that they could wait long; time was short. Dawn would be breaking soon, and then Walt would discover that Pa had died and the sisters were missing. But they had to leave. Joanie’s asthma was getting worse. Each gasping breath left her drained and hopeless, and Walt refused to let her see a doctor.

When Joanie had mentioned the notice in a discarded Savannah newspaper advertising a piece of land, Beth knew she had to buy the property and provide a home for Joanie. Pa had allowed her and Joanie to keep the wage Uncle Walt paid monthly. Over the years they had saved enough to survive, and the owner was practically giving the small acreage away. They wouldn’t be able to build a permanent structure on their land until she found work, but she and Joanie would own their own place where no one could control them. Beth planned to eventually buy a cow and a few setting hens. At first they could live in a tent—Beth’s eyes roamed the small shanty. It would be better than how they lived now.

Joanie’s spasm passed and she glanced up. “Okay. You…can do it now.”

Beth struck a match.

She glanced at Joanie. The young woman nodded and clutched her Bible to her chest. Beth had found it in one of the cotton picker’s beds after he had moved on and given it to Joanie. Her sister had kept the Bible hidden from sight for fear that Walt would spot it on one of his weekly visits. Beth had known, as Joanie had, that if their uncle had found it he’d have had extra reason to hand out his daily lashing. Joanie kept the deed to their new land between its pages.

After pitching the lighted match into the cabin, Beth quickly closed the heavy door. Stepping to the window, she watched the puddles of kerosene ignite one by one. In just minutes flames were licking the walls and gobbling up the dry tinder. A peculiar sense of relief came over her when she saw tendrils of fire racing through the room, latching onto the front curtain and encompassing the bed.

“Don’t watch.” Joanie slipped her hand into Beth’s. “We have to hurry before Uncle Walt spots the flames.”

Hand in hand, the sisters stepped off the porch, and Beth turned to the mounds of fresh dirt heaped not far from the shanty. Pausing before the fresh graves, she whispered. “I love you both. Rest in peace.”

Joanie had her own goodbyes for their mother. “We don’t want to leave you and Pa here alone, but I know you understand—”

As the flames licked higher, Beth said, “We have to go, Joanie. Don’t look back.”

“I won’t.” Her small hand quivered inside Beth’s. “God has something better for us.”

Beth didn’t answer. She didn’t know whether Ma and Pa were in a good place or not. She didn’t know anything about such things. She just knew they had to run.

The two women dressed in men’s clothing struck off across the cotton fields carrying everything they owned in a small bag. It wasn’t much. A dress for each, clean underclothes, and their nightshirts. Beth had a hairbrush one of the pickers had left behind. She’d kept the treasure well hidden so Walt wouldn’t see it. He’d have taken it from her. He didn’t hold with primping—said combing tangles from one’s hair was a vain act. Finger-picking river-washed hair was all a woman needed.

Fire now raced inside the cabin. By the time Uncle Walt noticed the smoke from the plantation house across the fields, the two sisters would be long gone. No longer would they be under the tyrannical thumb of Walt or Bear Jornigan.

Freedom.

Beth sniffed the night air, thinking she could smell the precious state. Never again would she or Joanie answer to any man. She would run hard and far and find help for Joanie so that she could finally breathe free. In her pocket she fingered the remaining bills she’d taken from the fruit jar in the cabinet. It was all the ready cash Pa and Ma had. They wouldn’t be needing money where they were.

Suddenly there was a sound of a large explosion. Heavy black smoke blanketed the night air. Then another blast.

Kerosene! She’d forgotten the small barrel sitting just outside the back porch.

It was the last sound Beth heard.

Captain Jack’s Treasure by Max Elliot Anderson

Captain Jack’s Treasure by Max Elliot Anderson is a fun read! I smiled, I chuckled, I frowned, I worried — and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Yes, it’s a kid’s book, but I am ever and always a kid at heart. I’m also a teacher so I spend a lot of time reviewing kid’s books. This one would thrill the heart of any adventure seeking boy or girl.

It was easy to tell that Max Elliot Anderson knows the hearts and minds of young boys. The characters, Sam, Tony and Tyler, were typical all-American, adventure-seeking, conclusion-leaping boys full of curiosity and impatience, yet each has his own distinct personality. I highly recommend this book to all adventure-loving (especially pirate-adventure loving) 8 to 11 year old boys or girls.

As an adult I appreciated the way Bible verse and Bible precepts were embedded in the story without being tract-like or preachy. Any kid could read this book and get the message without realizing s/he’d just sat through a Sunday School lesson. Everything fit and flowed and the story was paramount.

There is a prequel to this book which I hadn’t read. It did not impede my understanding of the story, but it might give some pause to younger, less experienced readers. The best way to avoid this is to buy Lost Island Smugglers as well.

~*~

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:

 

Captain Jack’s Treasure

Port Yonder Press (August 15, 2011)

***Special thanks to Chila Woychik of Port Yonder Press for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a reluctant reader. After surveying the market, he sensed the need for action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 and up, especially boys.

Mr. Anderson was a producer of the nationally televised PBS special, Gospel at the Symphony that was nominated for an Emmy, and won a Grammy for the double album soundtrack. He won a best cinematographer award for the film, Pilgrim’s Progress, which was the first feature film in which Liam Neeson had a staring role.

He has produced, directed, or shot over 500 national television commercials for True Value Hardware Stores. Mr. Anderson owns The Market Place, a client-based video production company for medical and industrial clients. His productions have taken him all over the world including India, New Guinea, Europe, Canada, and across the United States.

Using his extensive experience in the production of motion pictures, videos, and television commercials, Mr. Anderson brings the same visual excitement and heart-pounding action to his stories.

Each book has completely different characters, setting, and plot. Young readers have reported that reading one of Mr. Anderson’s books is like being in an exciting or scary movie.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Sam Cooper lives right near the ocean, on the Treasure Coast of Florida. All he’s ever heard about since he moved here were the fabulous treasures that have been found, and those still waiting to be discovered.

For his birthday, he received the gift of his dreams. It’s the latest, top-of-the-line, metal detector. Along with his friends, Tony, and Tyler, all are convinced that they will be the ones to dig up the next great find.

They meet a crusty sea captain named Jack. He’s fixing up an impossible looking old tub. The boys believe it’s going to be used to search for treasure at sea. They get permission from their parents to help with the restoration job in the hopes that Captain Jack will share his wealth.

When Sam’s father nearly dies, from a heart attack, the true values of life take on new importance and meaning.

What is Captain Jack’s mysterious secret? And what is he really planning to do with that boat?

Readers will gain a new appreciation for family, they will learn about the dangers of greed, and oh the stories Captain Jack can tell.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.95
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 178 pages
Publisher: Port Yonder Press (August 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935600141
ISBN-13: 978-1935600145

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Catching the smugglers out on Lost Island was all that people around Harper’s Inlet could talk about for weeks. Everyone wanted to know which three brave boys had been involved. Sam, Tony, and Tyler weren’t allowed to tell anyone about the mystery. The FBI told them to keep it to themselves for their safety. They had become heroes, yet no one knew their names.

After going scuba diving, getting caught up in a terrible storm, and being stranded on Lost Island, it might seem that Sam Cooper and his friends, Tony and Tyler, would have had all the adventure any three boys could want for a summer, a year, or an entire lifetime. Only that’s not how it worked out. But then, that’s the way it is with boys. Boys are made for danger, adventure, excitement, and conquering things. And that’s exactly what these guys looked for all the time.

Chapter 1

Captain Jack’s Hopeless Boat

The storm Sam and his friends had survived wasn’t something any one of them could soon forget. Maybe they never would. So you might want to excuse Sam for what he thought one night, a couple of weeks later.

Lightning knifed across the night sky and thunder roared so loudly that Sam was sure his windows would shatter into a million pieces any second. It didn’t help much that his bedroom faced directly toward the ocean. And those silly stories about lightning coming from angels taking flash pictures, or thunder from them moving their furniture around up in heaven didn’t do him any good either. When he pulled the covers over his head his dark comforter still couldn’t keep out the bright flashes of light.

Sure glad I’m not out there on the ocean again tonight, Sam thought. Man, that’d be terrible.

Suddenly, as if he’d pushed the start button on a DVD player in his head, violent images of the storm he, Tony, and Tyler had survived, came crashing in. With each flash of light, he remembered how the mast had broken like a twig and the boat split in half while he and his friends held on to what was left.

Sam grabbed the extra pillow on his bed and held onto it for a few minutes with his eyes shut tight.

A little later, when he couldn’t sleep, Sam slipped out from the safety of his covers to get a better look at the angry storm. A huge surf crashed against the beach. He watched white caps on the pounding waves with each giant lightning bolt. The weather forecast this summer called for heavy storms in and around where he lived. The big one he and his friends had been caught out in was the first of the season.

Great, he thought. Another storm. Now we’ll have to forget our plans to go fishing in the morning.

Sam lived in Harper’s Inlet, Florida, not far from an area people call the “Treasure Coast.” “Treasure” should have been Sam’s middle name.

He and his friends had often seen people line the pier with their fishing poles dangling over the water below. Most of their time had been spent in the scuba course. Then, after the accident, their parents made them stay home. Part of the reason was to keep them away from each other, and because they’d done something so dangerous.

Sam and his friends had talked many times about how much fun it would be to go down to the pier, sit around, and do nothing all day. During all the time that Sam had to stay at home, just the idea of going outside again seemed like getting out of prison. Well, today was supposed to be their day. They had permission, Tony’s father bought the fishing licenses, and everything was set. Except now, the storm would probably change their plans. Sam climbed into bed again and somehow, even with all that racket, fell back to sleep.

“Sam, Sam, your friends are here!” his mother called from down the hall.

He sort of heard it, but the sound seemed to be coming from another world. And from the wild dreams he often had, he couldn’t be too sure. The next thing Sam knew, he became the jelly in a jam-pile sandwich on his bed. From out of nowhere Tony and Tyler jumped on top of him. Everybody knew, if Tony pounced on you, a guy wouldn’t forget it. They rolled Sam up in his covers and pushed him onto the floor.

Tyler was small for his age, but he still did his best to keep up with Sam and Tony. Tony could stand to skip a meal or two and he was never at a loss for something to say.

“Hey, you guys, cut it out!” Sam said.

“You cut it out!” Tony shouted. “We had to wake up early, get our stuff, and come over here, only to find you, king of the sleeping slugs, still in bed. Now get up.”

“But the storm.”

“What storm? Haven’t you looked outside? The sun is shining, there’s a nice breeze, and we already saw people fishing off the pier on our way over here.”

“Yeah,” Tyler said, “and they’re catching our fish.”

“So get moving before we drag you down there in your P J’s,” Tony threatened.

“You wouldn’t dare!”

“Oh wouldn’t we?”

With that, Sam broke away, ran to the bathroom, and locked the door so he could get ready. “Go on to the kitchen. My Mom will give you something to eat. I’ll be out in a minute,” he yelled from inside the room. Tony and Tyler did as he said—and before long he joined them.

Sam’s mother had packed a delicious lunch for each of them the night before. It included peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit punch, potato chips, chocolate cake, and a few surprises. Soon Sam and his friends were on their way, walking toward the pier, for a long lazy day.

Sam took a deep breath. “Sure is great to get out again.”

“I know,” Tony said. “I thought my dad would never get over us losing that catamaran.”

“Us?” Sam asked.

Tony just looked back at him.

“What are we going to use for bait?” Tyler asked.

“Nothin’, ” Sam said.

“What do you mean, nothin’?” Tony asked. “You just gonna whistle, and call ‘Here fishy, fishy, fishy’?”

“We’ll use lures that my dad gave me. They’ll look just like little fish to the big fish we’re after. I have a bunch in my tackle box. You guys can use any of them you want.”

Sam’s tackle box clanked and rattled as he walked toward the pier. Its green paint had plenty of scratches and rust from years of use. His grandfather had used the old thing first. Then he’d given it to Sam’s father. But his job as a research biologist didn’t leave much time for fishing. So he’d given the tackle box, and three rods and reels, to Sam.

The box had a black, metal handle on top, and a nearly scratched off sticker with a largemouth bass jumping out of the water on the end of a fishing line. Sam’s tackle box held extra reels, fishing line, several different lures, red and white plastic bobbers, lead weights—everything he’d need for fishing.

“Whatcha got in that box?” Tony asked.

Sam winked and said, “All I can tell you is, when it comes to fishing, if I don’t have it, we don’t need it.”

“Did I ever tell you about the last time I went fishing with my dad,” Tyler asked, “before we got divorced?”

“No, but I’m sure you’re about to,” Tony said.

“It was the funniest thing you ever saw. Well, I thought it was funny.” He blinked and jerked his head. “Anyway, we went out in this big boat with a bunch of other people. I hadn’t ever been fishing before.”

“So how’d you do?” Sam asked.

“That’s the funny part. I caught my dad…three times.”

“Ha! You must have thrown him back then ’cause I just saw him when we got rescued from Lost Island,” Tony said.

“It gets worse. I didn’t just catch him three times, but, call it beginners luck if you want to, I caught the most fish on the whole boat too!”

“How in the world did you do that?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know. All I did was drop my line in the water and bam, a fish hit my hook. I finally had to quit because I was getting so tired from pulling in all those fish.”

“You’re lyin’,” Tony said.

“Am not.”

Sam put his pole up on one shoulder. “I’ll bet that made the rest of the people feel better, you leaving a few more fish for them.”

He shook his head. “Not really. They still didn’t catch very many.”

“I can’t think of anything worse than catching your dad and the most fish,” Sam said.

“Well, it gets worse.”

“Not possible.”

“Yeah, because I got sick and threw up all over the deck.”

“Boy, I hate it when that happens,” Tony said.

“My dad hated it too. He kept on apologizing to all the people and the captain.”

“So what happened?” Sam asked.

“What happened is my dad has never invited me to go fishing again. I used to think that was one of the reasons he left us. Today is my first time fishing since that all happened.”

Sam smiled. “Promise me you aren’t going to catch any of us today, Tyler.”

“And no throwing up on the pier either,” Tony warned.

“I’ll try not to.”

By this time they were walking along the beach. They noticed several people searching in the sand with metal detectors.

“There’s a bunch of them out today. Wonder why?” Tyler asked.

“I read that it’s best to search for stuff right after a big storm like we had last night,” Sam said.

“How come?”

“Because all that wind and the waves tear up the sand and move it around so it’s easier to find things.”

“That must be right because I don’t remember seeing this many people most days.”

Sam let out a deep sigh. “Yeah, I really wish I had a metal detector.”

Tony added, “Think of all the money we could make with one of those babies.”

“We?” Sam asked.

“Well, you’d let us in on it, right?”

“I might.”

“You’d better.”

“Your dad could buy each of us one if he wanted to,” Tyler told Tony.

“Not after we lost his boat and all that scuba gear.”

Sam looked at him again. “We?”

Tony reached the pier and stepped onto its worn boards. Sam thought their footsteps sounded like the hollow booms of big base drums.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people fishing before either,” Sam said. “Wonder if the storm stirs up the fish, too?”

“Hey, Tyler,” Tony said. “Watch out for all these people. You wouldn’t want any of them to catch you.”

Sam and his friends had to walk way out near the end of the pier until they found an open spot where all three could set up. They began the long, lazy day of fishing they’d dreamed about for so long. space The hours crept by, the shadows grew longer, and each boy caught at least one fish.

“We didn’t do so well today,” Tyler complained. “Nothing like my last time.”

“It’s okay. That’s why they call it fishin’ and not catchin’,” Sam said.

It had been a fun day, but now it was time to pack up and head for home. Living by the ocean, Sam loved the water. He knew that Tony and Tyler loved it, too. The smells from the sea, the pelicans swooping down to gobble up a fish in their big scoop-of-a-mouth, the gentle breezes, all helped Sam and his friends to relax. They saw dolphins jumping far out in the water.

They came to the end of the pier, walked along the beach for a stretch, and turned toward Dodds’ Marina. Tony pointed to an old boat near the marina that they hadn’t really thought much about before.

“Hey, you guys,” Tony said. “Have you seen that sorry excuse for a boat? Man, he’s got to be kidding. You put that thing out in the water and it’d sink for sure.”

“I saw it when we came back from Lost Island,” Sam said.

They walked over to the dock for a closer look. The boat was in bad shape and needed more than a simple coat of paint. Some of the windows were broken, and the railings were either rusted or missing. Just then, a short, heavy-set man climbed up from below. He looked almost as worn out as the deck he stood on. His tired eyes searched around as he stretched, rubbed his back, and then saw something on the dock near where the Sam and his friends stood.

In a loud voice the man called out, “Ahoy, you boys. Could one of you toss me that rope by your feet?”

Sam looked down to see a large coil of rope. “You want the whole thing or just one end?”

“The end will do.”

Sam grabbed it and walked toward the side of the boat. He handed the rope up to the man and as he did, Sam stared at his dry, cracked hands. Some of the cracks were bleeding a little.

He didn’t know what to say, so he asked, “This your boat?”

“Naw, I found it bobbing around out there in the ocean, pulled her in, and claimed her for my own.”

“Really, you did that? Whose was it?”

“Probably belonged to pirates or smugglers, I expect.”

“How could that be? I mean, it’s in pretty bad shape,” Sam said.

“I’m just kidding you, matey. I bought her off a guy that was about to sell her for scrap. I’m fixin’ her up. She’s all mine.”

“Mister,” Tyler asked, “why isn’t your boat in the water?”

“They got me in this thing called a dry dock. That’s because she needs a lot of work on the topside, and the bottom.”

“I’ll say,” Tony whispered.

“Looks like you’re all by yourself. Isn’t anyone helping you?” Sam asked.

The old man shook his head. “Nope, just me, that’s all. You wouldn’t be looking for a job, now would ya?”

“A job? What kind of a job?”

“Helping me fix up this old tub. I could use the lot of ya.”

“I don’t know,” Sam answered. “I’d have to ask my dad.”

“That’s a good idea. Why don’t you do that? If your parents say it’s okay, come on back and I’ll put you to work. I’ll pay you for your trouble too.”

“We’ll tell you tomorrow if we get permission.”

“Sounds good to me. I’ll be right here. This pile of boards isn’t going any place unless a hurricane comes along. Right now that’s about the only thing that could move her from this spot,” he said, letting out a loud, long laugh. The boys could still hear it as they walked away.

“I think it’d be a great idea to work on that old boat. We could make some money, too,” Tyler said. “I wonder what he’s fixing it up for?”

“Probably to search for treasure. One look at him and anybody knows he could use the money,” Tony said.

“Is there any treasure around here?” Sam asked. “I read about the Treasure Coast before we moved.”

Tony laughed. “I can tell you aren’t from around here. The Treasure Coast is farther north.”

Sam stopped walking. “Oh, and I suppose boats can’t go up and down the coast?”

“Sure they do,” Tyler said.

“A treasure hunting boat. Yeah, I’ll bet that’s it,” Sam whispered.

“I think we should help him,” Tyler said. “Then he’ll feel like he has to invite us to go out and search for treasure with him. I mean, he’d have to share it with us like partners.”

Sam thought for a moment, “A treasure hunting ship. Wouldn’t that be something? Just think of all the gold and stuff we could find with a boat like that.”

Rivers of Living Water

Music for Refreshing the Soul

I took Suzanne Lorente’s, Rivers of Living Water CD with me on my road trip to Oregon. It was great company. The music is straight-forward and uncomplicated with clearly understandable lyrics. On the open road it was great sing-along music, and with the volume turned low it provided a soothing background when navigating unknown roads.

All but one of the songs on the CD were new to me, which I found surprising because of my life-long immersion in Christian music — and that’s when I noticed that the words and music of almost every song are Suzanne Lorente originals.

Suzanne’s voice is clear and strong and full of praise for God. Her music is fresh and refreshing, just as the title implies. This CD quickly became one of my favorites.

~*~

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 artist is:

 

 

and the CD:

 

Rivers of Living Water

Lorente Publishing

***Special thanks to Suzanne Lorente for sending me a review cd.***

ABOUT THE ARTIST:

Suzanne Perry Lorente has been a child of the Lord since age 7. Her gift of music began at age two and has carried her through her life. She is an accomplished long time song writer, singer, guitarist and performer from the age of 13. At a young age, Suzanne chose a career of a professional entertainer as a single singer/guitarist in well known night clubs, dinner houses and special events, with a repertoire of more than 400 songs. During this same time frame, she achieved an Associate of Arts degree in Mass Media from Stephens College in Columbia, MO, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from San Jose State University in California. As time marched along, she realized God’s calling on her life to turn her heart toward Him as she could hear that “still, small voice” asking her to leave the relentless work of night clubs and secular entertainment. “It was a vow that took place in a day, and His promise took place over my lifetime. I am so blessed and God has kept His promise that He would give me the songs to sing for His children and for His glory.” Suzanne has sung first of all for her family, then in choirs, started and sang in many small groups and trios, sang solo for so many audiences and congregations throughout the United States, and left behind a legacy of musical scenarios as she tells her stories of how each of her songs came about. She has recorded an ageless cassette that continues to be in demand, and a new CD, that has high-lighted the songs God has given to her. Suzanne has been teaching voice and guitar since she was 14 years old. She is presently singing in the little City of Dixon, CA for their Farmers Markets, weddings, and events, as well as with her trio, Suzanne Lorente and Friends, as they embark on recording a CD together. They are out doing concerts whenever possible and wherever the Lord leads. “It’s wonderful to see God change the lives and hearts of people as we just sing our songs and allow Him to work through us. I love that!”

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT CD DESCRIPTION:

This CD is a wonderful spiritual uplift and encouragement for any Christian who wants to grow, not only by hearing God’s Word, but by doing what He’s asking us to do. We have to take that first step and that’s what this CD motivates believers and non-believers to do. The songs are original Christian Gospel scenarios that anyone can relate to, and that’s what gives you the anointing strength to keep on going. You will love the beautiful orchestral and vocal backgrounds with each song as Suzanne Lorente and her trio envelope you with their angelic harmonies. God has put His Hand of blessing on Suzanne and given her songs throughout her lifetime of ministry. She and her gals are planning a tour and would love to include your church or event if it’s possible. May God bless every listener and urge them to follow the Lord by listening to His “Still, Small Voice!”

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Music CD
Publisher: Lorente Publishing
Language: English

AND NOW..A SAMPLE OF A SONG FROM THE CD:

(To hear more samples, please visit Suzanne’s website)

Here is one of the songs, “Misunderstood.” This song is an original of mine written on January 1st of 2010. I am the voice for those who have been aborted, abused and misunderstood. This is quite sad, but it’s telling us that each one of these has identified with the misery, torture, and abuse that Jesus went through on the cross. Many 100’s of thousands have died a martyr’s death, and are with the Lord because He loves them. Please listen carefully! This could be such a blessing for the Christian pregnancy centers and homes of abused women and children.

Here are the lyrics:

Misunderstood – Matthew 18:1-7

Words and Music by Suzanne Lorente
Arranged by Jeannine O’Neal

How can it be they don’t hear them, they don’t see

What can I say? Jesus loves them, they are free.

No-one will take time to listen as they cry

Knowing that I have the answer, I know why.

They’ve been misunderstood time after time

Their tiny voices still ring in our minds

No-one to love them, no-one to care

What they have to say doesn’t matter…anyway.

There is a hard part to living, not to be heard

Hate takes the joy out of giving, their vision blurred

Where is the love that could give them wings to fly?

Knowing that I have the answer, I know why.

They’ve been misunderstood time after time

Their little voices still ring in our mind

No-one to hear them, no-one to care

What they have to say doesn’t matter…anyway.

Could you be one who can’t hear them, you can’t see?

Are you aware they are people like you and me?

What would have come of the children who were slain?

There’d be a world of compassion… no more pain!

We have misunderstood time after time

Their tiny voices still ring in our mind

Someone will love them, someone will care

What they have to say really matters…anyway.

He’s (Jesus) been misunderstood, but not for long

Each tiny baby to Him will belong.

He really loves them, He really cares

What He has to say is what matters…anyway!

What He has to say is what matters….anyway!

Matt. 18:1-7

Additional high vocals Suzanne Lorente, Cecelia Dettle
Copyright 2010 BMI-0777 All rights reserved

See my website for further information: www.suzannelorente.com

Spring for Susannah

If you love to immerse yourself in romantic historical novels don’t miss Catherine Richmond’s debut novel, Spring for Susannah. This book will make your heart swoon as Jesse tenderly woos Susannah.

I instantly bonded with Susannah as I read her story and I fell just a little bit in love with Jesse, too. The secondary characters round out the story and give it balance. This was a satisfying read — one I plan to keep on my book shelf to enjoy again.

I have only one tiny complaint. A few social issues of the era were touched on in the book, but they remained basically unexamined. I found myself wanting a more proactive Christian analysis of the plight of the Lakota, but in order to do that the author would have had to compromise the history of the era. All-in-all Spring for Susannah is an outstanding first effort and I can’t wait to read Catherine Richmond’s future novels.

~*~

About the Book:

When Susannah goes to Dakota territory as a mail-order bride she finds something she never dreamed she would—true love.

With no prospects for marriage and her parents recently deceased, Susannah Underhill agrees to go west to the Dakota territory to marry her minister’s homesteading brother, Jesse. But Susannah is painfully shy, doesn’t see herself as worthy of love from either a husband or from God, and lives in constant fear that Jesse is going to ship her back to Detroit.

In spite of her petite size and the fact that Susannah doesn’t look like she could survive on the prairie, Jesse quickly discovers that his new wife is a greater blessing than he even hoped for. The years she spent as her father’s veterinary assistant allow her to save Jesse’s ox and twin calves and to help neighboring farmers with their animals.

~*~

To celebrate her debut novel, Catherine and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away a Spring For Susannah Prize Package worth over $150!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen
  • Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond (for KINDLE)

To enter just click one of the icons below and then tell your friends! But hurry, giveaway ends on June 27th. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 28th at 5 PM (6PM MST, 7PM CST, & 8PM EST) during Catherine’s Spring for Susannah Book Club Party on Facebook! Catherine is rustling up some fun for the party – she’ll be chatting about the story behind her novel, hosting a book club chat, testing your mail-order bride trivia skills, and giving away some GREAT prizes! Don’t miss the fun and tell your friends!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

~*~

About the Author:

On her website, Catherine Richmond says: “I was busy raising a family, working as an occupational therapist, and trying to remember where I hid the chocolate, when a song sparked a story within me. The journey to publication has been long, but full of blessings. I couldn’t have done it without ACFW, RWA, and FHL, the inspirational chapter of RWA – and lots of chocolate!”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LitFuse Publicity Group.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Breath of Angel

Breath of Angel
is one of those books which, once I started reading, I simply could not put down. The story pulled me in immediately and kept me riveted to the page to the very end. In fact, when the book ended I was disappointed to find myself sitting on my couch in my own world!

I am a fantasy fan of long standing and I am particular about what books I read in the genre. In Breath of Angel, Karyn Henley has created a believable and exciting world. Her characters are well drawn and their plight is real and compelling. I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

~*~

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:

 

Breath of Angel

WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)

***Special thanks to Lynette Kittle, Senior Publicist, WaterBrook Multnomah, a Division of Random House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Karyn Henley has written over 100 titles, along with being an accomplished songwriter nominated for a Dove Award. She also received a regional Emmy Award as Music Composer for a television special and lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, a jazz drummer.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In Breath of Angel (WaterBrook Press, June 21, 2011), award winning author Karyn Henley brings to life the tale of Melaia, a young priestess who witnesses the murder of a stranger in the temple courtyard. A place where age-old legends recited in song suddenly come to life, in this story of two immortal brothers quest for restoration.

With Angels. Shape-shifters. Myths and stories… Melaia finds herself in the middle of a blood feud between two immortal brothers who destroyed the stairway to heaven, stranding angels in the earthly realm.

Young readers are sure to be intrigued and dig deeper into this make-believe story that explores the payment for redemption.

 

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307730123
ISBN-13: 978-0307730121

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The prick of the thorn drew blood, but Melaia smiled. The last ramble rose of the season was well worth a pierced thumb. She carefully drew the blossom from the vine that clung to the side of the temple. As she breathed its rich, sweet scent, she sensed someone watching and looked up, expecting to see one of the novice priestesses. She saw only dry leaves skittering across the flagstones of the walled courtyard, along with a black feather, no doubt from a bird scavenging seeds in the woodpile.

Then a haggard young man stepped through the gate, and Melaia drew back. The chill autumn breeze riffled the edge of his dirt-stained cloak, revealing the corner of a journey pack and the hilt of a dagger. Melaia gave him a tentative nod.

“I’ve come—” His voice was dirt dry. He wiped his fist across his mouth.

“I’ll fetch water.” Melaia tucked the rose into her waist sash and headed for the stone urn by the arched doorway. “Travelers are always welcome at our temple. We’ve pallets if you wish to stay the night.” She would have to check with the high priestess, but Hanni rarely turned away weary travelers.

“My thanks,” the man croaked.

Melaia flipped back her loose honey brown braid and dipped a pottery cup into the cool water. “I’m chantress here, always eager to hear new tales from travelers.”

The young man looked too weary to tell tales. Or too ill. His dark-ringed eyes darted from one afternoon shadow to another, and he cocked his head as if he heard something beyond the walls.

“We’re healers here as well,” she offered.

For a moment his wild eyes focused on her. Then he glanced above her head, and his hand went to his dagger.

But he never drew it.

A hawk, larger than any she’d ever seen, shot like an arrow past Melaia and sank its talons into the stranger’s chest. The man’s raw screams pierced the air as the hawk’s beak knifed at his throat.

Melaia stood stunned and speechless. But as the hawk flapped its great wings and lifted the man a handbreadth off the flagstones, her senses surged back.

She snatched a branch from the woodpile and swung it at the hawk. The raptor screeched and dropped the stranger. “Fight!” she yelled at him. “Fight back!”

But it was the hawk that fought, its wings beating at her stick as its claws snagged the man again. At last Melaia struck a solid blow to the hawk’s head, and it skidded sideways. She chased after it, but the raptor took to the air, quickly rose, and soared away over the domed roof of the temple.

Melaia flung aside the stick and fell to her knees by the bloodied man. Then she covered her mouth and swallowed a bitter taste. “Most High, have mercy,” she croaked. Seeing wounds so deep and blood flowing freely, she wasn’t surprised that the stranger’s mistlike spirit had emerged from his body.

As a death-prophet, she could see the shadowy echo writhing around his form as he struggled to live.

“Mellie? Is it safe?” Dark-eyed Iona stood in the temple doorway, holding back the other two novices. At fourteen, she was the motherly one, although Melaia was two years older. Curly-haired Peron, still baby plump at six, peered around Iona, clutching her skirts, while twelve-year-old Nuri broke away from them and ran across the yard, her usual dimpled smile gone.

“Is he dead?” Nuri asked.

“Not yet,” Melaia told her. “Take Peron and fetch a basket of plumwort. And water.”

Nuri stared at the man’s wounds. “We saw the hawk.”

“Go!” said Melaia. “I need plumwort to stanch the bleeding.”

As Nuri dashed away, Melaia wondered why the high priestess hadn’t appeared.

“Where’s Hanni?” she called to Iona.

“Summoned to a birthing. The weaver’s wife.” Iona nervously twisted the end of her black braid.

“Then come help me carry the man inside.”

Melaia hesitated. She was often called to the bedside of the dying to confirm the moment of death, but never had she been required to reach through a spirit to touch someone. Of course, other people did it all the time, she told herself. They just couldn’t see the struggling, mistlike layer. She took a deep breath, grasped the man’s bloodied cloak, and pressed it to the gashes in his chest. His spirit pooled around her wrists, vibrating like a throat quivering with speech.

“Can you hear me?” Melaia asked, keeping pressure on his wound. The stranger’s spirit thrummed frantically, as if he were trying to say something.

“Where’s the plumwort?” Melaia yelled.

Nuri ran across the yard, sloshing a jar of water. Peron trotted behind her with the basket of plumwort. Iona knelt at the man’s feet, her mouth moving silently in prayer.

Melaia reached for the plumwort, but the man’s spirit slid off his body, thinned into a stream, and seeped through a crack in the flagstones. A sudden, grim silence fell over the yard. Melaia shook her head at Nuri and Peron and closed the man’s green-flecked eyes.

Peron stuck out her lower lip. “I was too slow.”

“No, I was.” Nuri’s shoulders drooped.

“No one’s at fault,” said Melaia, but she couldn’t help thinking that the man might still be alive if she had only laid into the hawk sooner. “Let’s get him inside.” She lifted his upper body. For his bulk he was surprisingly light.

Iona lifted his legs. “Starved twig-thin,” she said. “Poor man.”

They carried the stranger to the sanctuary altar, the bier for those who

could afford no better. Melaia took a deep breath, wishing Hanni were there.

“Iona, find me a winding-sheet,” she said. “Peron, go with Nuri. Fetch more

water and scrub the courtyard.”

“But it’s bloody,” said Nuri. Peron wrinkled her nose.

“Would you rather clean the man’s body?” asked Melaia. Nuri and Peron

scrambled out the door. Iona followed.

Melaia gently eased the man’s cloak from his chest and winced, wondering where Hanni would begin. She exhaled slowly. “Start with the easiest,” she murmured.

She untangled his pack from one forearm. As she slipped it free, she noticed the end of a small scroll clenched in his fist. “First the pack,” she told herself, glancing around. Her gaze fell on a shelf of incense bowls. She stashed the pack there, then turned back to the altar-bier and froze.

The stranger’s cloak had fallen back and, with it, a long, white, bloodstained wing.

Melaia’s knees almost buckled. “An angel?” she whispered. It couldn’t be. Angels were found only in legends. Chanters’ stories. Bedtime tales.

Iona’s voice echoed down the corridor. “Do we need more water?”

Melaia jerked the cloak back around the man.

Iona strode in with a bundle of white linen. “Do we need more water?”

“We need Hanni,” said Melaia.

“You look as if you’ve seen the man’s ghost.” Iona looked around. “Has he

returned?”

“Just go get Hanni.”

Distant drums signaled the closing of Navia’s city gates and the change of watch on the walls. On the altar-bier in the temple, the winged man lay serene and clean, covered in white linen up to his chin. Melaia didn’t often sit with the dead, but as she lit the oil lamps behind the bier, she decided that tonight she would request a vigil. She hoped the high priestess would join her, for she had a night’s worth of questions to ask.

But so far, the high priestess hadn’t returned. She had sent Iona back to say

that the birthing was a difficult one and she must stay with it, although she was upset at the news of a death in the side yard. Hanni intended to stop by the overlord’s villa and bring his advisor, Benasin, back to the temple with her.

As Melaia held the flaming twist of rushweed to the last wick, she eyed the three girls munching their supper on a reed mat across the room. With Hanni gone they had asked to stay with Melaia instead of eating in the hearthroom down the hall. She was glad for their company. She felt as shaky as they did, although she hadn’t told them about the stranger’s wings. She wanted Hanni’s opinion first.

Melaia tossed the spent rushweed into the brazier in the center of the room and stirred the coals into flame. For a moment she watched the smoke curl up and drift like a dying spirit out through the roof hole above. Except dying spirits always drifted down, not up.

“I’m saving my scraps for the chee-dees,” Peron said, scooping her crumbs into a tiny hill.

“Fetch your crumb jar from the storeroom, then,” said Melaia. “When you’ve finished cleaning up, I’ll tell a story.”

Peron stared warily at the dark corridor that lay beyond the bier.

“I’ll go with you.” Nuri slipped one of the lamps from its niche. With an uneasy smile she guided Peron to the corridor, giving wide berth to the bier.

Iona stoppered the olive oil. “Peron is telling tales again. This time it’s about two falcons scaring away her songbird friends.”

“She must have been inspired by the hawk in the yard today.” Melaia stacked the empty wooden bowls and glanced at the stranger who should have eaten a meal with them tonight.

“Peron said the falcons were darker than closed eyes,” said Iona. “I can picture that.” Melaia lifted her harp from its peg.

“And they had people hands.” Iona rolled her eyes.

“That I can’t picture,” said Melaia. “Too ghoulish.”

Iona laughed. “With such an imagination Peron will surely become a chantress.”

A shriek came from the corridor. Peron darted into the room, hugging her crumb jar, with Nuri on her heels. Both girls were open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

Behind them limped a sharp-nosed, beardless man wearing a cloak fashioned

completely of feathers—brown, black, and an iridescent blue that glinted in the lamplight. The skin around one of his round gold eyes was blackened, and a scratch jagged across his brow.

Melaia went cold, head to toe. How had the man entered? Had she left the side door unbolted?

Nuri and Peron ran to Iona, and all three huddled by the wall. Melaia stifled her impulse to join them. Hanni had left her in charge, so in charge she would be. She had fought off a murdering hawk. She had prepared a bloody winged man for burial. She would stand up to this intruder.

She strode to the brazier, her hands clammy as she clung to her harp. “This is the temple of the Most High,” she said, hoping he wouldn’t hear the quaver in her voice.

“So it is,” he hissed, limping to the bier. “I believe I noticed that.” “What’s your business here?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Surely you’re not the high priestess.”

“She’s the chantress,” blurted Peron.

“Ah. Singer of songs, soother of sorrows,” he crooned.

“If you’re here for our treasury box, take it and be on your way,” said Melaia.

“I have unfinished business with the high priestess,” he said.

“You can find her at the overlord’s villa,” said Melaia.

“No doubt.” With a gloved hand he slid back the sheet that covered the corpse. He smiled at the gashes, then studied Melaia. “Chantress, play your harp for me.”

Melaia gaped at him. “You have no right—”

“Or let me play it,” he said. “The little girl can bring it. The one who feeds the birds.”

Peron’s eyes grew round as the supper bowls, and she shrank behind Iona’s skirts.

Melaia hugged the harp tighter to her chest and glared at the man defiantly, even as she fought back a fear that curdled in the pit of her stomach. How long had this swaggerer been spying on them?

His unblinking gold eyes stared back at her. “I do not take disobedience lightly.” His voice was ice. “Send the girl with the harp or play it yourself.”

Melaia swallowed dryly. She felt her courage fall as limp as the poor stranger in the yard. Keeping her eyes on the intruder, she sank to a bench by the brazier and positioned the harp in her lap.

“Let us hear the tale of the Wisdom Tree,” he said. “You know it, don’t you, Chantress?”

Melaia scowled at him and motioned for the girls to join her. As she fingered

the melody, they silently gathered around, and she breathed easier. Together they were safer, with the brazier as a barrier between them and the bully.

She turned her attention back to the harp, and over the music she spoke the tale.

In a time long ago, there lived a tribal chieftain whose firstborn son was

a wealthy trader, his second-born a lone hunter. Each year at harvest festival, his sons vied to present him with the best gift. The Firstborn always gave perfumes, musicians, slave dancers, the treasures of his trade. The Second-born presented partridges, deerskins, lion-claw necklaces, the spoils of the hunt. But the Second-born thought his gifts paltry compared to those of the Firstborn. So he set out to seek the greatest gift of all.

Far and wide he journeyed, to no avail. At last, weary and discouraged, he lay to rest in the shade of a tree as tall and wide as the tower of a citadel. The Wisdom Tree it was, bearing fruit that granted the eater knowledge and cleverness.

Peron popped her thumb out of her mouth and chanted, “Within this tree stood the stairway to heaven made wholly of light.”

“Exactly,” said Melaia, glad that for the moment the tale was distracting Peron from the intruder, whose gold eyes held a hungry glitter. Melaia continued:

An angel named Dreia, guardian of the Tree, saw the Second son lying there and asked the cause of his despair. When he told his tale, she pitied him and gave him the juice of one fruit. “This will grant you knowledge and cleverness to find the right gift for your father,” she said.

As he sipped the juice, the man’s eyes brightened. “I know the perfect gift,” he said. “A fruit from this Tree.”

Dreia hadn’t intended to give the man a whole fruit. Its seeds were precious, carried by angels into the heavens to plant wisdom trees in worlds among the stars. Yet the man was handsome, his entreaties eloquent.

At last Dreia said, “You may take one fruit if you vow to bring me the first creature that greets you when you arrive home. This I shall send over the stairway as payment. Moreover, you shall return the three

seeds of this fruit, for they are strictly forbidden to mortals. Should you fail to repay your debt, the Tree itself shall exact payment in breath and blood.”

The Second-born agreed to the bargain, for the one who always greeted his homecoming was his old hunting dog. Taking his dog and the seeds back to Dreia would be good reason to see the beautiful angel again. So he carried the fruit home.

While he was still afar off, he saw, bounding across the field to greet him, his young niece. “Uncle!” she cried. “Terrible news. Your old hunting dog has died.”

The Second-born fell to his knees and wept, not for his dog, but for his niece, the only daughter of the Firstborn, now to be payment for his debt.

Melaia paused as the intruder slipped off his gloves. His fingernails were long, curved, and sharp. Talons. Her pulse pounded at her throat. His blackened eye, his scratched brow, his feathered cloak, his limp.

She had met him before. As a hawk.

“Is there no ending to the tale?” He smirked at her recognition of him and stroked the corpse. “I favor endings.”

Melaia felt foggy, as if she were in a dream. She tried to gather her thoughts.

“The Second-born knew only one way to escape his debt,” Iona prompted.

“Yes.” Melaia cleared her throat and forced out the words.

The Second-born knew he had to destroy the Wisdom Tree.

Dreia saw an army approaching, the Second son in the lead, betrayal in his heart. She gathered what angels she could. Some plucked the remaining fruit and hastened over the stairway to celestial worlds.

Others stayed behind to defend the Tree. But these were not warring angels. The best they could do was save some of the wood as the Tree fell and was plundered by men who wanted pieces for themselves.

“That was the end of the stairway,” Nuri said.

“And the end of angels in our world,” added Iona.

“But the brothers planted the seeds of the Wisdom Tree,” offered Peron,

“didn’t they?”

“They did.” Melaia set the harp aside. “The brothers learned that cultivating wisdom takes patience.”

The girls chimed in, “Wisdom, over time, is earned.”

The hawkman hissed. “A pitiful ending and woefully false.” He pointed a taloned finger at Melaia. “Remember this, Chantress. The Second-born abducted his niece and headed for Dreia. But fortune was with the Firstborn, for

I discovered the treachery in time to rescue my daughter. To ensure that the Tree never collected on the debt, I destroyed it. My daughter and I ate the seeds, round and shiny, red as blood. We became immortal!”

“You’re trying to haunt us with our own tale.” Melaia took up a poker and stabbed the coals in the brazier, determined not to show her fear. “There were three seeds.”

“So there were,” said the hawkman. “The third I crammed down my brother’s throat. Now he owes his debt for all eternity. And it is my pleasure to make sure he never repays.” He grinned at the dead man. “Son of Dreia, this night you are destroyed.”

He snatched up the corpse, and its wings unfolded. The girls shrieked and ran to Melaia.

The hawkman dropped the body back to the bier as if it had burned him.

Then he cursed and shoved it to the floor. He scanned the room. “The man

had a pack. Where is it?”

“Maybe he lost it in the side yard.” Melaia felt her face grow warm at the half lie.

But the man didn’t press his search. Instead, he stiffened and stared at the front door, his head cocked, listening. Melaia heard only wind, but the hawkman slowly retreated, tense as a cat backing away from danger. He glanced from the door to the window to the roof hole, where smoke drifted into the night. Then he hurtled toward the brazier, and his body contorted.

All of Melaia’s instincts screamed at her to run, but she stayed her feet, clenched her jaw, and gripped the poker with both hands. As the hawk leaped into the flames, she swung with all her might.

She struck only air as he rose in the smoke and vanished.

 

My Foolish Heart

Is there anything more, heady, wonderful, joyous, and down-right terrifying than falling in love?  That first exhilarating rush of emotion comes with more highs and lows than the most twisted roller-coaster ride ever devised by man.  Susan May Warren has managed to capture that euphoria and angst and weave it throughout the pages of  My Foolish Heart.

Issy, Caleb, and the other characters that populate Deep Haven are straight-forward, down-to-earth, flawed individuals trying to live the best lives they know how.  They are just ordinary people like you and me — and they came off the pages and into my heart with incredible ease.  This story took me from laughing out loud to sniveling in my hanky and back again.   When I got to the last page and closed the cover I wasn’t ready to leave Deep Haven.  Happily, there are several more book in the series so I won’t have to just yet.

About the Book:

Unknown to her tiny town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley spends her nights as Miss Foolish Heart, the star host of a syndicated talk radio show. Millions tune in to hear her advice on dating and falling in love, unaware that she’s never really done either. Issy’s ratings soar when it seems she’s falling in love on-air with a caller. A caller she doesn’t realize lives right next door.

Caleb Knight served a tour of duty in Iraq and paid a steep price. The last thing he wants is pity, so he hides his disability and moves to Deep Haven to land his dream job as the high school football coach. When his beautiful neighbor catches his eye, in a moment of desperation he seeks advice from My Foolish Heart, the show that airs before his favorite sports broadcast.

Before he knows it, Caleb finds himself drawn to the host—and more confused than ever. Is his perfect love the woman on the radio . . . or the one next door?

Read an excerpt here: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/novels/contemporary-romance/

About the Author:
Susan May Warren is an award-winning, best-selling author of over twenty-five novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, the Rita Award, and have been Christy finalists. After serving as a missionary for eight years in Russia, Susan returned home to a small town on Minnesota’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where she, her four children, and her husband are active in their local church.

Susan’s larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder ofwww.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!)

A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com.

Win a Romantic Night on the Town from Miss Foolish Heart!

Susan May Warren is thrilled to announce the release of her latest Deep Haven book, My Foolish Heart!

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

To celebrate this charming novel about a dating expert who’s never had a date, Susan has put together a romantic night on the town for one lucky couple. One grand prize winner will receive a Miss Foolish Heart prize package worth over $200!

The winner of the Romantic Night on the Town Prize Pack will receive:

  • A $100 Visa Gift Card (For Dinner)
  • A $100 Gift Certificate to a Hyatt/Marriott Hotel
  • The entire Deep Haven series

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LitFuse Publicity Group.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Picturesque Camping Trip

Once again we tripped off to Vancouver, B.C. with a group of students from UW’s Friday Harbor Labs.  This time it was the ZooBot class (a Zoological and Botanical survey of coastal sea life).

This is Megan.
Megan
Megan teaches the Zoo part of ZooBots.  I took this shot right after the class returned from the beach and caught Megan in the act of exchanging boots for shoes. Megan is just as fun and energetic as this photo implies.

This is the classroom.
Waves

This is the class.
class

Somethings to study.
sealife 2

Some more things to study.
sea life

Of course it wasn’t all work.
Kamp Kool Kids

When in camp we roasted hats.
roasted hats

Roasted socks.
roasted socks
Played games.
cards

Celebrated a birthday …
party
… with cake …
cupcakes

… and music …
music

… and dancing.
dancing

We also ate.
ate
Megan’s friend brought us a bucket full of fresh crab.  I am sure that somewhere in all the crunching and slurping we remembered to say thank you.

And of course I found time to take a few pics:

wildflower

Wildflower

dancing grass

Dancing Grass (growing from a rock)

more scenery

River Tree

seedy

Seed Head

fiddle fern

Fiddlehead Ferns

crab

crab

anemone

Sea Anemone

gull

Gull

berry soon

Berry Soon

grass

Grass

Botany Bay path

Botany Bay Path

Botany Bay steps

Botany Bay Steps

Botany Bay lower trail

Botany Bay Boardwalk

furry trees

Furry Trees

greens

New Growth

stellar jay

Stellar Jay

Stumbling Toward Heaven

One wouldn’t expect a book about cancer to be a laugh-out-loud read, but this one is. In Stumbling Toward Heaven: Cancer, Crashes and Questions, Mike Hamel takes us through his struggles with cancer, God, and the aftermath of his auto accident. This a true story told with unusual candor and brilliant insights, and it isn’t just a book for cancer patients.  If you or anyone you love have ever suffered a life altering catastrophe or struggled over questions of God’s will in your life, you will find this book a heart and soul stirring read.

~*~

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:

 

Stumbling Toward Heaven: Cancer, Crashes and Questions

CreateSpace (March 24, 2011)

***Special thanks to Mike Hamel for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mike Hamel is the author of a dozen books and a cancer survivor who lives and writes in the shadow of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs.

Visit the author’s website.

 

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Stumbling Toward Heaven is about my struggle with cancer in particular and life in general. It describes in detail what the disease has done to my body and what life before and during treatment has done to my mind, which has never been very stable in the first place. It follows my physical and spiritual journey toward the Valley of the Shadow of Death and beyond. It’s written for everyone who has been impacted by life-threatening catastrophes.

This book is also meant for those who find themselves spiritually “off the reservation” as novelist and cancer survivor Kinky Friedman would say. For a long time I’ve been “out where the (church) buses don’t run”—another Kinkyism—and it’s surprising how many people have wandered out here for one reason or another.

On May 16th, TV News 5 (Colorado) ran a story about Mike. Click HERE to see the interview!

 

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (March 24, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1461005000
ISBN-13: 978-1461005001

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Good News, It’s Cancer!

July 2, 2008
“I have good news,” Dr. Dillon said, leaning forward on his elbows. “You have cancer. The biopsy shows the lump in your abdomen is Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and not an omental tumor as the initial scan suggested.”

Lymphoma is good news indeed. The first time I’d seen the good doctor a few weeks earlier he’d said, “You have a nonspecific mass in your omentum.”

“I didn’t even know I had an omentum,” I replied.

“It’s a fatty covering in the abdomen.”

“How big is the mass?” (“Mass” sounds more benign that “tumor.”)

“About the diameter of a grapefruit,” he said, making a circle with thumbs and forefingers. “The nearby lymph nodes are also enlarged.”

Dr. Dillon had no idea how long the tumor had been growing. I got introduced to it in the spring of 2008. I was getting low-grade cramps after sitting at my computer all day, which I put down to poor posture. Then I woke up two nights in a row with abdominal pain I couldn’t blame on posture or indigestion. That’s when I first felt the hardness in my gut.

The cramps went away about the time I made an appointment with my family physician but the lump remained. I remember kneading my gut on the way to the doctor’s trying to rekindle the pain that had caused me to make the appointment in the first place. Turns out I didn’t have to worry about wasting the doctor’s time; he could feel the abnormality and wouldn’t buy my glib explanation that it was my abs of steel.

“It’s only hard on one side,” he pointed out.

“Okay,” I conceded, “How about ab of steel?”

“How about you get a CT scan,” he countered.

The scan revealed a mass large enough to warrant an immediate trip to a surgeon/oncologist, which is how I wound up at Dr. Dillon’s.

Larry Dillon is a personable man with salt-and-pepper hair, an open face and straightforward manner. During our first visit he had explained to my wife, Susan, and me that the normal course of treatment is a complete surgical resection of the omentum. Before we left he warned about doing research on the Internet because the information on solid omental tumors “will scare you silly.”

He got that right.

I had no problem finding authoritative articles on omental masses. I had hoped it was something Catholics attended during Lent, but no such luck. An article on eMedicine clinically stated that, “Patients with primary malignant tumors of the omentum have a median survival time of only six months. Only 10-20% of patients are alive two years after surgical excision.”1

The word that popped out at me was “survival,” a stark concept for a fifty-six-year-old who had seldom been sick and who had only been in a hospital as a visitor. Till now my closest brushes with mortality had been conducting funerals as a pastor. All that was about to change. Since then I’ve been in and out of hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices. I have gone from a high-energy to a high-maintenance lifestyle; from avoiding even aspirin to popping up to twenty pills a day and having lethal doses of toxic chemicals injected directly into my chest.
Scan This, Biopsy That

The transition from diagnosis (determining what’s wrong with a person), to prognosis (discerning how a disease will progress), is facilitated by a plethora of tests. It was a CT scan that sent me to Dr. Dillon. He in turn ordered a biopsy of the mass in my abdomen.

Computed Axial Tomography, aka CAT or CT scan, was invented in 1972 by a British engineer and a South African physicist, both of whom later received Nobel Prizes for their contributions to medicine and science. Tomos is Greek for “slice” and graphia means “without a knife.” The CT scan uses X-rays and computers to examine the body in 3-D, which sure beats exploratory surgery! It allows radiologists to see diseases and abnormalities that, in the past, could only be found by surgeons—or coroners. Thankfully, the procedure is painless, unless you count drinking the contrast solution, which tastes like banana-flavored chalk.

I reported to Memorial Hospital on June 26 for my tumor biopsy. I remember talking to a nurse named Tammy while on the examination table and the next thing I knew I was in the recovery room an hour later. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and the skills of top-flight professionals, I can truly say the process was painless.

As I looked at my stomach after the biopsy, I noticed the “x” they made before the procedure was an inch below the actual cut. I pointed this out to Tammy, who explained that they’d marked me while I was holding my breath during the scan. Once I was under, I relaxed, hence the change in location. There went my hopes of a malpractice suit. Actually, I was impressed at how personable and professional the medical personnel have treated me) an observation that has held true throughout my treatment).

All I have to show for the biopsy the next day is a small bruise and a slight soreness. I feel pretty upbeat but I’m careful not to get too exuberant or else I’ll pay the price. To an extent, I believe Newton’s Third Law also applies to emotions: “For every feeling, there is an equal and opposite feeling.” Like other natural forces, emotions come finely balanced on a shifting fulcrum.

The hardest part of this ordeal so far has been telling family and friends and hearing the concern and tears in their voices. The possibility of a shortened life hasn’t registered on me yet. I’m not trying to suppress my feelings; they just haven’t gotten too worked up.

Obviously God has entered my thoughts but this crisis hasn’t suddenly cured my inability to pray. For a few years now I’ve suffered from the loss of a sense of God’s presence and shed my evangelical worldview. I’ve been adrift in a spiritual Sargasso Sea, which may have contributed to my getting sick. More on this later.

* * *

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.”

—John Diamond