A Quarter for a Kiss

I have to say, I don’t know quite what to say about this book.  I enjoyed reading it.  The plot was tight and tense, and the characters were well-drawn, but from time to time the writing style would abruptly change.  The change in cadence was so startling I felt as though I was reading two different authors.  This is the fourth book in a series that has gotten rave reviews — and for story, plot, and character development, it truly deserves rave reviews — but on a scale of one-to-five I am rating it a three because the changes in the story “voice” kept jarring me back to reality.

~*~

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:

 

A Quarter for a Kiss

Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

With a touch of romance and a strong heroine, A Quarter for a Kiss offers more of the fast-paced and suspenseful inspirational writing found in A Penny for Your Thoughts, Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels, and A Dime a Dozen. In this fourth book of the Million Dollar Mysteries, Mindy Starns Clark weaves another tale of mystery and God’s touch on the lives of those who seek Him.

As a young widow, Callie Webber finds strength in her faith in God and joy in her growing romance with her employer, Tom Bennett. When their friend and mentor, Eli Gold, is shot, the search for answers as to who and why leads Tom and Callie to the beautiful Virgin Islands. There they face a sinister enemy among the ruins of an old sugar plantation—an enemy who’s willing to do anything to keep his identity secret and the past deeply buried.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929592
ISBN-13: 978-0736929592

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Come on, Callie,” Tom urged. “You can do it. You know how.”

Ignoring the burning in my calves, I kept my gaze on Tom, who had reached the top of the wall almost effortlessly and now waited there for me to join him.

“There’s a grip at two o’clock, up from your right hand about six inches,” he guided, speaking in the low, soothing tones I teasingly called his “rock climbing” voice. Glad for that voice now, I released my handhold and reached upward, my fingers easily finding and grasping the tiny ledge. “Now your foot,” he said. “Slow and easy. You’re almost there.”

As I went I concentrated on all I had learned about rock climbing in the last few weeks. It was Tom’s passion, and we had spent a number of hours practicing on a real rock face while he taught me the basic tricks and techniques. Now we were in an indoor gym, on a simulated rock wall, climbing much higher than we had ever gone in our practice runs. And though I was wearing a safety harness that was roped to the ceiling, that didn’t make it any easier or any less scary—particularly where the wall actually bent outward, pitching me at a difficult angle.

“You are one step away, Cal,” he said, excitement evident in his voice. “Most of the people won’t make it half this far.”

With a final burst of daring, I slid my toes against the next hold and straightened my knees, rising high enough to touch the ceiling at the top of the wall.

“You did it!” Tom cried, and only then did I allow myself to smile and then to laugh.

“I did do it!” I echoed, slapping a high five with Tom and feeling the rush of pleasure and relief he said he experienced every time he finished a challenging climb. Of course, to him “challenging” meant the Red Rocks of Nevada or Half Dome in Yosemite. For me, a big wall in a rock-climbing gym was a pretty good start.

We repelled down together, my legs still feeling shaky once I was on solid ground.

“That was great,” the teenage staffer said as he helped unhook me from the harness. “And to think you were worried. Are you sure you haven’t done this before?”

“Not that high and not indoors,” I said.

“Well, you’re a natural.”

“I had a good teacher,” I replied, glancing at Tom, who was busy removing his own harness. He and I had spent the last three weeks together vacationing in the North Carolina mountains. During that time, we had enjoyed teaching each other our favorite sports—climbing and canoeing—though I liked to tease him that my hobby was the superior one, because one false move with a canoe paddle wouldn’t exactly plunge a person hundreds of feet to their death. Tom had replied that if one were canoeing above Niagara Falls, that wouldn’t exactly be true, now would it?

As the teenager moved on to help the next set of climbers, Tom gave me an encouraging smile.

“Hey, what did you say this is called?” I asked him, pointing at my visibly wobbling knees. “Sewing legs?”

“Sewing-machine legs,” Tom replied. “A common climbing malady. Come on. You need to rest for a bit.”

He bought us two bottles of water from the snack bar, and then we found a quiet corner and sat on a bench there, leaning back against the wall. I felt thoroughly spent, as if I had pushed every single muscle in my body to its very limit.

I sipped on my water, feeling my pulse slowly return to normal, looking around at the activity that surrounded us. Across the giant room, a new group of climbers was being instructed by a guide while about ten more people waited in line for their turn. In the front window was a giant banner that said “Climb for KFK,” and beside the cash register was a table where pledges and donations were being accepted for “Kamps for Kids,” a charity that provided summer camp scholarships to impoverished children. Instead of a walk­athon, they were calling this event a “climbathon.” I liked the idea as well as the whole atmosphere of the place, from the easy joviality of the people waiting in line to the upbeat encouragement of the instructors who were manning the ropes and providing assistance as needed.

“So what’s up, Callie?” Tom asked. “You haven’t been yourself all morning.”

I shrugged.

“Sorry,” I said. “This is my work mode, I guess. You have to remember, we’re not just here to have fun. We’re on the job, so to speak.”

Tom nodded knowingly and then leaned closer and lowered his voice.

“So how does this happen, exactly?” he asked. “Do you just walk up to the people and say, ‘Hi, here’s a big whopping check’?”

I smiled.

“Oh, sure, that’s usually how it goes. I call that my Big Whopping Check speech.”

“Don’t be hard on me,” he said, grinning. “I’ve never done this before.”

I leaned toward him, speaking softly.

“Well, first of all, you have to wait for the proper moment,” I said. “Like just before you’re about to leave.”

“Okay.”

“Second,” I continued, “you have to have the full attention of the correct person. You don’t want to give that whopping check to just anybody.”

“Get the big wig. Got it.”

“Finally, the act of presentation takes a little bit of flair. It’s a huge moment for them. You want to help them enjoy it.”

“I think I understand.”

“You also want to bring them back down to earth a little. I actually do have a short speech I give every time I hand over a grant. I remind the recipient where the money’s coming from and what it’s for. That seems to go over well.”

I felt funny explaining how I did my job to Tom, because he wasn’t just my boyfriend, he was also technically my boss. Though he lived and worked on the other side of the country, far from our actual office, Tom was the kind and generous philanthropist behind the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. I worked for the foundation as the director of research, and basically my job was to investigate nonprofits Tom was interested in and analyze their suitability for grants. If they checked out okay, I then had the pleasure of awarding them grant money. That’s what we were doing here today. For the first time ever, Tom was joining me as I gave a little bit of his money away.

“Hey, Tom! Tom Bennett!” a man cried, interrupting my thoughts.

The fellow bounded toward us, grinning widely. He was tall and wiry, with deep laugh lines in a tanned face, and when he reached us, we stood and the two men shook hands warmly. “You said you might come, but I didn’t believe you.”

“I’m glad I was able to work it out,” Tom replied, smiling.

He introduced his friend as Mitch Heckman, owner of the gym and co-organizer of the event. I told Mitch how impressed I was with the gym and with the climbathon concept.

“Most of the credit goes to my wife,” Mitch said, shaking my hand. “I’m just glad we could use the gym to help out a good cause.”

“Have you raised much?” Tom asked.

“Our goal for today was twenty-five thousand dollars,” Mitch said. “You can see how we’re doing on that poster over there.”

He pointed to a drawing of a mountain with a zero at the bottom, amounts written up the side, and $25,000 at the top. Sadly, it had only been colored in about half of the way up—and the event would be over in another hour or two.

“Of course, we had a pretty big learning curve in putting the whole thing together,” Mitch said. “I’m sure we can make up the difference with some bake sales or car washes or something. We’ll get there eventually. Mai pen rai, huh?”

“Yeah, mai pen rai.”

They chatted for a few minutes more, and then Mitch was called up to the front. After he was gone, Tom explained to me their acquaintance, that they had met a few months ago while mountain climbing—specifically, while scaling the limestone cliffs off of Rai Ley Beach in the Krabi Province of Thailand. Tom had been working hard in Singapore and had taken a weekend off to visit the nearby mountain-climbers’ mecca, where he met Mitch atop one of the peaks after a particularly challenging climb. As the two men rested, they talked, and it turned out that they were both avid climbers and eager to explore an unfrequented jungle crag nearby. Together they had hired a guide and ended up having an incredible day of climbing. Though the two men hadn’t seen each other since, they had been in touch off and on ever since via e-mail.

“What were you saying to each other just now? My pen…”

“Mai pen rai,” Tom replied. “That’s Thai for ‘no problem’ or ‘never mind.’ The guides say it to encourage you while you’re climbing, kind of like ‘you can do it.’ ‘Don’t worry.’ Mai pen rai.”

“Does Mitch know about the foundation?”

“Nope. He thinks I’m just another rock jock.”

“He’s in for a nice surprise, then,” I said. “This is fun, giving a grant to someone who never even applied for one.”

This wasn’t our usual mode for doing business, that was for sure. But this particular charity was so new—and the amount we were donating so relatively small—that the investigation hadn’t been all that complicated. Since KFK had never applied for a grant from us, I hadn’t really had the authority to go in and do an extensive investigation. But they did belong to several good nonprofit watchdog groups, so I had felt confident doing the research from our vacation home in North Carolina, mostly over the internet and on the phone with the foundation’s accounting whiz, Harriet, the day before.

“Anyway, now you’ll finally have the pleasure of making a donation live and in person,” I added. “Something I’ve only been bugging you to do for two years.”

“Almost three years now,” he corrected. “And, yes, I’m hoping this might shut you up for good.”

“Oh, you want me to shut up, do you?” I asked. “What about—”

He silenced me with a finger against my lips, which he allowed to linger there.

“No,” he whispered, gazing a moment at my mouth. “Don’t ever stop talking to me. I want to listen to you forever.”

We looked into each other’s eyes as everything else in the room blurred into the background. My legs shivered again, but not from climbing this time.

“We need to get going,” Tom said gruffly, standing and then helping me to my feet. I squeezed his hand, and then we separated into the men’s and women’s locker areas to get cleaned up.

After a shower I dressed quickly in a pair of black slacks and a soft blue knit shirt. I towel-dried my short hair, combed it out, and took a moment to put on some lipstick and a touch of mascara.

As I looked in the mirror, ready to leave, I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness. In a few short hours Tom and I would go our separate ways, boarding two different flights to head toward our homes on opposite coasts—him to California and me to Maryland. For three glorious weeks we had done nothing more than shut out the rest of the world and spend time together, but we couldn’t hide out and play forever. Our work and other responsibilities awaited us, and as one week had turned into two and then to three, we had already stretched the length of our available time to the very max. Soon our idyllic vacation together would officially be over, and Tom and I would be back to our long-distance romance as usual.

Slinging my bag onto my shoulder, I decided to take this day moment-by-moment. Despite the difficulty of parting, we still had a job to do. We still had a grant to give out.

I emerged from the locker room to find Tom also showered and dressed, standing nearby and squinting toward the front of the room. He had in his hand a check from the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation, dated today and made out to the charity, though the amount had been left blank.

“Callie, can you read that figure?” he asked. “I need the exact amount they’ve raised so far.”

I walked a little closer and then came back to report that they were up to $11,043. Quick with numbers, Tom didn’t even hesitate before he filled out the check for $23,957.

“That’s ten thousand more than they need to bring them to their goal,” I said after doing the math in my head, not surprised one bit by his generosity.

“Yeah, but it’s the least we can do, don’t you think?”

He tried to put the check in my hand, but I pushed it back.

“No, you don’t,” I said. “Enjoy the moment.”

Carrying our bags, Tom and I walked to the front of the gym, where his friend Mitch was chatting with a woman that I assumed was his wife. We were introduced, and I liked her firm handshake and the way she looked me directly in the eye. She thanked us for coming and then moved on to speak with someone else.

“We’re going to head out,” Tom said to Mitch, “but I wanted to give you a check first. I talked my company into making a small grant.”

Of course, the way Tom had said it, you’d never know that it was his company, nor his money—nor that he was using “small” as a relative term. Mitch took the folded check without looking at it.

“Listen, buddy, every bit helps. Thank you so much, and thanks for coming.”

The two men shook hands, and then Mitch shook my hand as well. We said goodbye, and Tom and I departed, walking silently through the packed parking lot toward our rental car.

“You were right, Callie,” he said nonchalantly, pressing a button on his key chain to unlock the car. “Giving away the money in person really is kind of fun.”

I was about to reply when we heard Mitch calling Tom’s name. We turned to see the man running toward us, breathless, his eyes filled with disbelief.

“I don’t understand,” he gasped, holding up the check. “This is so much. Is it some kind of joke?”

“No joke, Mitch,” Tom said. “We’re affiliated with the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation. That’s a grant.”

“A grant?”

“Yeah, we give them out all the time. Callie, what is it you like to say when you give grants to people?”

I smiled.

“Basically,” I said, going into my spiel, “we want you to know that the best way you can say thanks is to take that money and use it to further your mission. The foundation believes strongly in what you’re trying to accomplish, and we just wanted to have some small part in furthering your efforts.”

To my surprise, Mitch’s eyes filled with tears.

“Your generosity leaves me speechless,” he said finally. “Won’t you come back inside? Let me tell my wife. She’ll be so excited. Maybe we can get a picture for the newsletter or the website or something.”

I looked at Tom, but he seemed decidedly uncomfortable.

“Mitch,” I said, “we really prefer to do this in a discreet manner. Just tell Jill that the J.O.S.H.U.A. Foundation gives the money with love and with God’s blessings. We’d rather not receive any individual recognition.”

Bewildered, he looked back down at the check.

“And you promise this isn’t a joke?” he tried one more time.

“No joke,” Tom laughed. “I give you my word, buddy. It’s for real.”

With a final sincere thanks, Mitch turned and headed back to the building. We stood there and watched until he went inside and the door closed behind him.

On impulse, I turned and threw my arms around Tom’s neck. Startled, after a moment he hugged me back.

“You are such a good man,” I whispered, feeling absolutely, utterly, and completely in love.

He laughed, pulling me in tightly for an embrace.

“Wow,” he replied. “This giving-away-money thing gets better all the time.”

Knowing the clock was ticking closer toward our flight times, we managed to pull apart and get into the car. He started it up and pulled out of the parking lot, driving toward the airport.

We were quiet as we went, both lost in our own thoughts. As we wove our way through traffic, I considered our relationship and the long and winding path my life had taken since my husband’s death. This coming summer would mark four years since Bryan was killed, and in one way it seemed like yesterday, and in another it seemed like decades ago. My husband had been my first true love, the sweetheart I had met at 16 and married at 25. We’d had four wonderful years together as husband and wife, but that had all come crashing to an end that fateful day when we went water-skiing and Bryan was hit by a speedboat. The boat’s driver went to prison for manslaughter, but I also went into a sort of prison myself—a self-imposed prison of mourning, of loneliness.

Only in the last six months had I allowed myself to consider the possibility that there might be life for me beyond my husband’s death. Tom and I had developed a good, strong friendship through our many work-related conversations over the phone, and then, slowly, that friendship had started taking on other dimensions. We finally met in person last fall, when Tom received word that I had been hurt in an investigation and raced halfway around the world to be by my side and make certain I was all right. We had spent a mere 12 hours together—just long enough to begin falling in love—and then we were forced to endure a four-month separation while he went back to Singapore on important business and I healed from my injuries and continued my work with his foundation in the U.S.

Then three weeks ago, in the very heart of spring, we had been joyously reunited. Showing up in a hot air balloon, Tom had swept me away to a gorgeous vacation spot in the North Carolina mountains, where we planned to stay a week or so and give ourselves the opportunity to see if our relationship really could work face-to-face. What we had found was that we were so compatible, so comfortable, and so suddenly and deeply in love that it was nearly impossible to end our vacation and return to our regular lives.

Now, however, our time together had come to an end.

“There’s the car rental return,” Tom said suddenly, pulling me from my thoughts. He followed the signs and turned into the lot, but instead of heading straight to the busy rental return area, he veered over to an empty parking spot nestled behind a big truck. He put the car in park but left the motor running.

“Maybe we should say our goodbyes here,” he told me, “instead of out in the middle of the busy airport.”

I nodded, surprised when my eyes suddenly filled with tears. I didn’t want to say goodbye at all. Tom’s cell phone began ringing from his gym bag, but we ignored it.

“Callie, have I told you that the past three weeks have been the happiest weeks of my life?”

The ringing stopped. In the quiet of the car, I held on to his hand, looking deeply into his eyes.

“They have been incredible,” I replied. There were many, many moments we had shared that I would relive in my mind in the coming days. “I don’t know if I have the strength to say goodbye to you or not.”

Tom reached up and smoothed a loose lock of hair behind my ear. Such tenderness was in his gaze that I thought it might break my heart.

“Callie, I have something for you,” he whispered. He started to reach into his pocket, and I swallowed hard, wondering what it could be. Then his phone began to ring again.

“You better see who it is,” I said, sighing. “It might be important.”

By the time he got the phone out from his gym bag, the call had been disconnected. Tom was pressing buttons, trying to see who had called, when my phone started ringing from my purse. I dug it out, surprised to see that the number on my screen matched the number that had just called his.

“Hello?” I asked somewhat hesitantly.

“Callie?” a woman’s voice cried from very far away. “Is that you?”

“This is Callie,” I answered. “Who is this?”

“This is Stella,” the voice said. “Stella Gold.”

I put my hand over the phone and mouthed to Tom, It’s Eli’s wife.

Eli Gold was my mentor, a friend of Tom’s, and the person responsible for bringing the two of us together.

“Stella?” I asked, trying to picture a woman I didn’t know very well at the other end of the line. I had met her the day she married my dear friend Eli, but she and I had not really spoken since, except for those times when I called their house and she had been the one to answer the phone. “What’s up?”

“Oh, Callie, I’m so glad I finally reached you. I need you. I need your help. I need Tom Bennett, also, if you know how to reach him.”

“What is it?” I asked, my heart surging.

“It’s Eli,” she sobbed. “He’s in the hospital.”

“In the hospital?”

“Callie, he’s been shot.”

Counter Fable

He: ” … and I did some sampling at the floor of the Pololu Valley, right about here. It was quite the hike to get down that cliff face, I’ll tell you.”

She: “Lovely. Can you come home now?”

He: “Love to. After they give me what I need to pay the rent.”

She:Sigh. I know. That makes sense, but …”

He: “I am not making cents!”

She: “Um … tell me something I don’t already …?”

He: “Absolutely not. That would be counterfeiting!

She: “And when did you start having this thing about carpentry?”

He: “Carpentry?”

She: “If you’re doing finish work, you want the counter to fit, don’t you? If it’s too big, it sticks out; if it’s too small, stuff falls in the cracks. Either way, the customer complains.”

He: “Oh. That. That’s how the breakfast bar got invented.”

She: “It is?

He: “Of course it is. ‘Dang it, boss, whoever drew these plans was clueless. This counter design don’t fit noplace!‘ ‘Relax, cuz. Just stick it out in the middle of the kitchen and throw a few high stools around it. They’ll never know.'”

The Awful English Language – Just Sea-ing

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was sitting at his computer, polishing his tin cup preparing yet another grant proposal and generally minding his own business, when the following sentence popped out onto the screen:

They [the people with the money; see The Golden Rule of Arts and Sciences] will then say yea or nay, and if yea, make any changes that they require.

YFNA was about to press “Send” and move on to the next task, but this sentence grabbed him by the shirt collar, hauled him back, and demanded that he look at this.

Specifically, at the yea and the nay.

They’re spelled different.

But they sound the same!

Shouldn’t it be, like yea and nea? Or yay and nay?

But you can’t really use yay in this context. It looks too much like you’re in the crowd at a football game, not a meeting where votes are taken and decisions made. That would be an insult to the dignity of the football game.

But if you can’t use yay, how are you going to convince people to pronounce nea so that it rhymes with say? Aren’t they more likely to say nea rhymes with sea? And if they get into that habit, and apply it to yea as well, aren’t you going to wind up with people in the US Congress deciding on the fate of Medicare by proclaiming yeee or (k)neee?

Talk about insulting the dignity of the football game. And are we really sure we wish to know into what part of our collective anatomy they’re going to put that knee?

Awhile ago, this hack writer by the name of Twain wrote an essay, “The Awful German Language”, complaining about just how close to impossible it was for he, Twain, to make any headway trying to converse in that language.

Seems to YFNA that Twain needed to look just a little closer to home. Just sea-ing.

Love On The Line

This was my first Deeanne Gist novel, but it won’t be my last. “Love on the Line” charmed me from beginning to end. The story’s authentic setting brings the entire town into the novel via the telephone “party line” and weaves breath-holding high tension and laugh-out-loud moments throughout the tale. However, what impressed me most about Deeanne Gist’s novel was her ability to create flesh-and-blood characters — real and believable people — from mere words and imagination. Not only are the main characters, Georgie Gist and Luke Palmer (actually an undercover Texas Ranger named Lucious Landrum), multi-dimensional and well-rounded, but the townspeople, the outlaws, and even the notorious bank robber, Frank Comer, come across as viable, multi-dimensional individuals. I highly recommend this book.

~*~

About the Book:
Rural switchboard operator Georgie Gail is proud of her independence in a man’s world … which makes it twice as vexing when the telephone company sends a man to look over her shoulder.

Dashing Luke Palmer is more than he appears though. He’s a Texas Ranger working undercover to infiltrate a notorious gang of train robbers. Repairing telephones and tangling with this tempestuous woman is the last thing he wants to do. But when his stakeout puts Georgie in peril, he realizes more than his job is on the line.

About the GiveawayCONTEST CLOSED!
Deeanne is thrilled to introduce Georgie and Luke to the word in her latest novel, Love on the Line. To celebrate Deeanne’s publisher, Bethany House, is hosting the Love on the Line iPad2 giveaway an Author Chat on Facebook! Enter today and follow the link below to RSVP for Deeanne’s rip-roarin’ Facebook Party!

One fortunate winner will receive: 

  • A Brand New iPad2
  • An Autographed Hardback Copy of Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 7th. Winner will be announced at Deeanne’s Author Chat Facebook Party. Deeanne will be wrapping up the Love on the Line celebration by chatting with friends new and old! So grab your copy of Love on the Line (it’s okay if you don’t have one yet- you might could win one!) and join Deeanne on the evening of November 8th for a rip roaring book chat, a little trivia and lots of giveaways (books, and Amazon, iTunes & Starbucks gift certificates)!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don’t miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends. Hope to see you on the 8th!

About the Author:
Deeanne Gist — known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee — has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historical & contemporary romances. Add to this three RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

She has a very active online community on her website at IWantHerBook.com and at Facebook.com/DeesCircle.

This biography was provided by the author or her representative (via Amazon.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.”

Fish fry

No you can’t have any. At least not until they grow up.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba supposes he’d better explain.

Some while ago, YFNA set up some aquaria. Seeing as how the adoption of more traditional pets is incompossible with our retaining permission to live in this house. Not that some of the more traditional pets haven’t tried to adopt us, or at least claim our space. But let’s leave those plot complications for Charlene, eh?

The fish chosen for these aquaria all come out of Lake Tanganyika in Africa. There’s a reason, in addition to their being pretty or weird-looking and (more or less) easy to keep. Ever hear of Darwin’s finches? That’s a group of birds, all of which are descended from a single pair that flapped (or got flapped) from mainland South America to the Galapagos Islands, found that they had the whole place to themselves, and set up shop. Eventually, the birds evolved from one pair – and therefore one species – to a flock of species (a “species flock”, natch) each one of which was adapted to all the different ways to make a living (an “ecological niche”) on the Galapagos and acquired bill shapes to match.

The same thing happened in Lake Tanganyika and its neighboring lakes. When Tanganyika first opened up, about 10 million years ago, a single pair of cichlid fish (the “Tilapia” you buy in the fish market is a cichlid) fell in, and its descendants are now adapted to all the different ways to make a living in the lake. Some of the ones in YFNA’s aquaria swim in open water and look like sardines, some live among the rocks and look almost like worms. And some are tiny things that live in snail shells.

Yes. Really.

YFNA set up the aquaria with sandy bottoms, threw in a bunch of snail shells from the garden (another plot complication for Charlene) and from beach-combing in various places we’ve visited, and when all that had settled down, added the fish. Presto. Hours of entertainment watching the fish carry (yes, carry) the shells from one place to another, squabbling over them in the process, and burying them in the sand so only their lips showed. Then guarding those shells, and ducking down into them anytime a threatening-looking Amoeba walked by.

Until, of course, they learned that the “threatening-looking amoeba” carried food.

Ever see a fish beg?

So YFNA was feeding the menagerie about a week ago, when he saw these specks on the sand outside of one of the shells that the male (more about this in a minute) shell-dweller was guarding closely, and kinda frantically. Quilly came over to see. “Oh. Look! Babies!

Now, as you know, baby dogs are puppies, baby cats are kittens, yadayadayada. Baby fish are called “fry”. (Were you wondering how long it was going to take to get to that explanation I promised?) Don’t ask me why “fry”. Ten of these things will fit on your little fingernail. Filleting them is out of the question. Maybe it’s supposed to be foreshadowing. “Your fate, Finn, awaits on some human’s stove”.

The other fish in the aquarium didn’t have stoves. Just as well: good luck with getting gas or electricity in there anyway. Not to mention that it’s danged hard to manipulate a frypan with fins. Or a filleting knife. It didn’t matter. What did matter was that these fry weren’t going to have lives to foreshadow, Daddy’s best efforts notwithstanding, unless YFNA did something.

Fortunately, for once, the best laid plans of mice, men, and amoebae amounted to something. YFNA reached into the tank, which caused Daddy fish and most of the fry to duck into the shell Dad was guarding, then picked up the fish-laden shell and carried it to the other aquarium, which had been specifically set up to receive them. Some of the fry didn’t make it back into the shell. No worries. YFNA got out his trusty turkey baster, sucked up the wanderers, and squirted them into the new tank. Where all is now well. Apart from the baleful stare that Dad gives YFNA every time he walks by.

So what’s all this about “Daddy?”

Well, dude, one of the gnarly things about keeping cichlid fish is that, unlike many other kinds of fish, the parents take care of their fry. Rear cichlids successfully and get a free show, and you have no idea whether you’ll get Leave it to Beaver or Married with Children or Three and a Half Men.

In this kind of shell-dwelling cichlid, what’s supposed to happen is that the female fish gets (ahem) invited to occupy a shell in the male’s territory. The eggs get laid in that shell, and the female sticks around to take care of the fry while the male guards the territory and keeps all those other fish and their frypans away.

Family life in this particular pair of fish seems to take the form of the female getting into the male’s, ah, shell, laying the eggs and then cutting and running. Leaving Dad to do the parenting thing. Makes one wonder what would happen if there were more than one male around in that tank. Which there isn’t, so I guess we’ll never know. At least, not until those fry grow up. Oedipus, anybody?

I will say this. Dad’s job, and mine, in bringing up these fry is surely going to be easier, not to mention cheaper, than it will be for the babies that some of our blogging buddies have been coming up with lately.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Whenever I pick up a Susan May Warren book, I know to also grab a box of tissue for my tears and to make certain I’m somewhere I can laugh out loud. Susan doesn’t use mere words to tell her stories, she uses pure, undistilled emotion. Baby It’s Cold Outside, is no exception. I was hooked from the first sentence and didn’t stop reading until the final period on the last page.

Baby It’s Cold Outside is going on my keeper shelf. I expect I will make a yearly pilgrimage to Frost, Minnesota and spend the 1949 Christmas holidays stranded in Dottie Morgan’s quaint Victorian house with her and her four reluctant visitors as they learn how powerful love and forgiveness can be.

I highly recommend this book. In fact, if you’ve read my other reviews you know that I highly recommend any and all Susan May Warren books.

~*~

Warm up to Chrismtas early this year with Susan May Warren’s, Baby It’s Cold Outside!

About the Book:
Dottie Morgan has no desire to share her home or her heart over the Christmas holidays. After all, her Christmas spirit froze over when Dottie lost her son in World War II. But when a blizzard of the decade traps Dottie in her home with four near strangers, she just might discover that opening her door might also open her heart to a Christmas miracle and a new reason to celebrate Christmas.

Warm up with a Kindle Fire from Susan May Warren!

To celebrate the release of her new Christmas book with Summerside Press, she and the publisher are giving away a Kindle Fire and hosting an early Christmas Party on Facebook!

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

One festive winner will receive:

  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Susan May Warren

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. Giveaway ends on 10/26!

But, wait there’s more! Join Susan May Warren on 10/27 for merriment and a few early Christmas presents at her Baby, It’s Cold Outside Christmas party! Grab your Christmas sweaters, socks and pj’s and join Susan and a few friends for a fireside chat about her recent books (Heiress & Baby, It’s Cold Outside), holiday traditions, favorite Christmas recipes, a trivia contest and more! Invite your friends and don’t miss the fun!

RSVP here and we’ll see you on October 27th at 5 PM PST / 8 PM EST!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

About the Author:
Susan May Warren is the best-selling author of more than thirty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have earned her acclaim from readers and reviewers alike. She is a winner of the ACFW Carol Award, the RITA Award, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award and a nominee for the Christy Award. Former missionaries to Russia, Susan and her husband have four children and live in a small Minnesota town on the shore of beautiful Lake Superior, where they are active in their local church.

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.”

Slow Learner

It finally dawned on me that the time to start acting like a professional writer isn’t after I am published, but before — because if I don’t start behaving like a professional I will likely never be published.  To that end I have a writing blog: Write-Lifting: Exercising Write.  You will find nothing there but short stories, writing exercises and updates that pertain to my writing life.

The first several posts on Write-Lifting will be stories that my long time readers already know. Hopefully you will enjoy reading them again. If not, just wait, I am sure some fresh stuff will come along soon.

I cannot promise a post every day. I will be dedicating most of my time to composing marketable fiction, however I do plan on signing up for NaNoWriMo and will keep a record of my progress on Write-Lifting.

As for Quintessentially Quilly … I love this blog and I am not willing to give it — or all of you — up (If you’re even still here after I’ve been gone all Summer!). Even so, I no longer have the time I once had, so I don’t know what is going to happen here. I would love to resurrect Punny Monday and bring you a few of my own, “He Said, She Said” stories — we shall see ….

Family Building

She: “I tell you, I don’t know where people get their ideas for naming their kids.”

He: “Yeah. There sure are some strange ones out there these days.”

She: “I’m not so sure today’s any different from yesterday, though. I’m still trying to figure out where some of the names in my family came from. But whatever it takes to make a home, I guess.”

He: “Well, I don’t know about a home. But if you do it right, you can use your family’s names to make a house.”

She: “A house?

He: “Sure. To lay the foundation, though, the first kid had better be a girl.”

She: “I don’t get it …”

He: “Florence. Then …”

She: “Oh good grief!”

He: “Don’t interrupt, it’s impolite. Besides, we gotta get this house up ‘fore it rains. Around here, that doesn’t give us much time. The sides are next. Need a boy for that.”

She:Sigh. Wally.”

He: “Hey, you catch on fast. Gotta be able to get in and out, of course.”

She: “Doris. And I need light in my house.”

He: “Winnie.”

She: “Just one? Have to be a big kid. I’m not sure I wish to be responsible for bringing up a child with an eating disorder.”

He: “Oh all right, three Winnies. Though they’re going to have a hell of a time at school keeping track of ’em.”

She: “Teachers wish to complain, they can come here and wash ’em all. Give them something to complain about.”

He: “Word. The next one’s going to have to be happy sleeping in an upstairs bedroom, though.”

She: “Why upstairs?”

He: “So all of us can have a Rufus over our hea … OW! What was that?

She: “A fork. I stuck it in you to christen you with your new name.”

He: “Which is …?”

She:Dunn!

En Garde-n

(Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba continues trying to (um) help with Quilly’s blog …)

He: “Where are you off to?”

She: “Just out to the garden. Going to get a tomato.”

He: “How?”

She: “Same way I usually do. It should be ripe enough to fall into my …”

He: “But how can you get it? Shouldn’t it be them?

She: “Oh, all right! Just for you, I’ll get two-matoes.”

He: “Worse and worse!”

She: “Don’t make me do something I’ll regret later.”

He: “Not my fault. For one thing, it’s not May, it’s October. For another, I’m not keen on toes at the dinner table, no matter what month it is. Talk about strangers in my soup …”

She: “You invited lawyers for dinner?”

He: “Yep. Dressed for the occasion, too.”

She: “In briefs??

He: “Too casual. Lawsuit and tie. And they’re staying for breakfast.”

She: “And what are you fixing them for breakfast?”

He: “Pop torts. Weren’t you going to the garden?”

She: “While I still can. You know what the worst thing about this season is, don’t you?”

He: “Yeah, said the rake. Autumn leaves.”

She: “And winter follows.”

Take Two Aspirin And …

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba retired from blogging some time ago. But the other day, Quilly was wishing for posts for this site, and since YFNA’s pseudopods have gotten too short, and too weak with age, to go digging up local fences and bringing them home as presents (they wouldn’t have been easy to convert to .html anyway), he had to think of something else if he was going to (um) help.

Well, he just found out something about his work that he decided he just had to share.

As some of you may remember, YFNA studies seaweeds and related plant-like stuff (you know, pond scum) for a living. The dictionary word for this stuff is algae. No, this isn’t Greek to you, or me either. It’s Latin. This will become important in a minute.

You probably know that there are a lot of “-ology” words out there that describe particular fields of study. The “-ology” comes from the Greek word logos, which can mean “(the) word”. As in “the last word on something”. Thus, the study of animals (Greek zoon) is zoology. The study of the mind (Greek psyche) is psychology. If you don’t mind. So it would make sense that the study of algae is algology.

BZZAAATTT!!!!!

Y’see, there’s this arcane rule of English that says you can’t make a compound word out of other words that are derived from more than one language. There’s a fancy term for this sort of thing, which YFNA is too lazy to look up right now. Besides, Quilly wants him to be going to bed, not sitting up writing blog posts.

So putting algae, which is Latin (said this would be important later), together with logos, which is Greek, is verboten, which is German and it means “don’t do it”. Somebody might think that algae is Greek, and spend the rest of the evening quoting Shakespeare and creating a nuisance.

You’re supposed to pair up Greek words with other Greek words. It so happens that there is a Greek word for “seaweed”. It’s phykos. From which we get the word phycology. And a whole lot of mail from pharmaceutical companies that are trying to get us to prescribe their antidepressants. A phycologist going to a psychologist’s clinic to seek treatment for his identity crisis would probably wind up fatally confusing both of them.

But YFNA knew all this already. Has been living with it for, well, since elephants had fur. What he didn’t know is that there is a Greek word that begins with alg- and can be legally combined with logos. That word is algos. Which means pain. So, algology actually is a legal word, and it means “the study of pain”.

Wait ’til I tell the folks at the next phycological society meeting about this. They’ll probably tell me that I need a shrink. I heard that!