Monday, September 28, 2009

SO I THOUGHT I HAD THIS GREAT IDEA....

....to bake my sweet lil' Lovey's birthday cake. Usually we buy birthday cakes for $30 at Safeway. For a family of 5 that's $150 a year--for flour, eggs, and sugar. I mean, c'mon, what kind of frugal wife am I to keep throwing money around like that?


Since I'm not a baker, I had to get a few supplies: cake pans, a cake carrier, frosting tips. And since I couldn't decide whether to make from scratch or a box I had to get ingrediants for both: cream of tartar, almond extract, other-stuff-that-escapes-me-at-the-moment. You get the idea. When all was said and done I'd spent around $50, but that's OK because I can reuse the supplies, plus I'm baking with love!


As the sun sank in the sky, I decided I'd best go with a boxed cake because it was almost time to make dinner too. The kidlets and I mixed and stirred and made a mess, but wow did it smell great! The aroma gave me hope...false hope. When I tried to get the cakes out of the 9" round pans, they stuck. A lot. So much that when I finally got BOTH cakes out, they broke apart.


Sigh.


Kidlets went to bed, and I went for round 2. Good thing I bought an extra box. This time everything came out of the pans, but I had no idea how hard it is to decorate.


I'm a writer not an artist.


Anyhoo....I'm reasonably certain this is the sorriest looking $50 in town. I'll chalk it up to experience.





On a lighter note, we also celebrated the day by heading for the wild animal park. Check out our encounter with the giraffe!

Friday, September 25, 2009

A COWBOY CHRISTMAS

If you took the author's name off the cover, I could still pick Mary Connealy's fun, refreshing voice out of the crowd! The characters are vivid and the story will grip you. If you like hunky heros and romance, A Cowboy Christmas is sure to please.

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 Cowboy Christmas

Barbour Books (September 1, 2009)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


As an award-winning author, Mary Connealy lives on a Nebraska farm with her husband and is the mother of four grown daughters. She writes plays and shorts stories, and is the author of two other novels, Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon. Also an avid blogger, Mary is a GED instructor by day and an author by night. For more information on Mary Connealy, visit her Web site at .

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601453
ISBN-13: 978-1602601451

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



A mining camp in Missouri, November, 1879


“You’ll wear that dress, Songbird.” Claude Leveque grabbed Annette Talbot’s arm, lifted her to her toes, and shoved her backward.

Annie tripped over a chair and cried out as it toppled. The chair scraped her legs and back. Her head hit the wall of the tiny, windowless shack, and stars exploded in her eyes.

Stunned by the pain, she hit the floor, and an animal instinct sent her scrambling away from Claude. But there was nowhere to go in the twelve-by-twelve-foot cabin.

Her head cleared enough to tell her there was no escape, so she fought with will and faith. “Never.” Propping herself up on her elbows, she faced him and shouted her defiance. “I will never go out in public in that dress.”

“You’ll sing what I tell you to sing.” Claude, in his polished suit and tidily trimmed hair, looked every inch civilized—or he had, until tonight. Now he strode toward her, eyes shooting furious fire, his face twisted into soul-deep rot and sin.

“I sing as a mission.” Annie tried to press her back through the unyielding log wall. “I sing hymns. That’s the only thing—”

A huge fist closed over the front of her blouse, and Claude lifted her like a rag doll to eye level, but he didn’t strike.

He would. He’d proved that several times over since he’d come here with his disgusting demands.

She braced herself. She’d die first. Claude might not believe that, but he’d know before long.

“So, you’re willing to die for your beliefs, heh?” Claude’s fist tightened on her blouse, cutting off Annie’s air.

“Yes!” She could barely speak, but he heard. He knew.

“Are you willing to watch someone else die, Songbird? Maybe your precious friend, Elva?” He shook her and her head snapped back. “I can always find another piano player.”

“No!” Annie had to save Elva. Somehow. Of course Elva would be threatened. Annie hadn’t had time to think that far.

Elva would never stand for this. Elva would die for her beliefs, too.

A wicked laugh escaped from Claude’s twisted mouth. “She’s easily replaced. But I’ll never”—he shook her viciously—“find another singer like you.”

How had it come to this? God help me. Protect Elva and me.

“My answer is no! Elva wouldn’t play the piano for me if I wore that.” Her eyes went to the slattern’s dress hanging, vivid red, near the door. “She would refuse to play the piano for those vulgar songs.”

“We’ll see, Songbird.” Claude laughed again.

Annie saw the evil in him, the hunger to hurt. He wasn’t just hurting Annie to get his way. He was enjoying it. Her vision dimmed and blurred as she clawed at his strangling fist.

“I’ll go have a talk with your frail old friend and then we’ll see.” He shoved Annie backward, slamming her against the wall.

She hit so hard her knees buckled. What little air she still had was knocked away.

Claude charged out, shutting the door behind him.

Annie heard the sound of a padlock snicking shut as she slumped sideways.

She became aware of her surroundings with no idea how much time had passed. In the falling darkness, she could barely make out blood dripping down the front of her dress. Tears diluted the blood and she wept.

“Do something, idiot! You can’t just sit here crying.”

Annie proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was indeed an idiot by burying her face in her hands and sobbing her heart out. The tears burned. She swiped at them and flinched from the pain in her blackened eye.

Shuddering, she lifted her battered face from her hands and looked at the dress. It seemed to glow in the dim light, as if the very fires of the devil gave it light. Indecent, vivid red silk with black fringe. No bodice worth mentioning, the front hem cut up nearly to the knees. The garment was horrible and disgusting, and Annie’s shudders deepened. She shouted at the walls of the tiny, solidly locked cabin, “I won’t do it!”

Claude had known before he’d asked that Annie would never wear that sinful dress and sing those bawdy songs. Touching gingerly her throbbing, swollen cheek, Annie pulled her hand away and saw blood. Her lip was split, her nose bleeding. She knew Claude’s fists had been more for his own cruel pleasure than any attempt at coercion.

“Beat me to death if you want,” she yelled at the door. “I will never again perform onstage for you!” She felt strong, righteous. Ready to die for her faith.

Then she thought of Elva. Annie’s elderly accompanist was maybe, right now, being punished because Annie hadn’t fallen in line.

Claude’s cruel threats rang in her ears even with him gone.

For all her utter commitment to refusing the Leveques and singing only her beloved hymns, how could Annie watch Elva be hurt? Could Annie stand on principle while Elva was beaten?

The welts on Annie’s arm, in the perfect shape of Claude Leveque’s viselike hand, along with Annie’s swollen eye and bleeding lip, proved the hateful man knew how to inflict pain. He’d proved he had no compunction in hurting a helpless woman.

Noise outside her prison brought Annie to her feet. He was coming back! Annie was sick to think what the couple would do to the elderly woman who had spent her older years worshipping God with music.

Sick with fear that they’d force Annie to watch Elva being battered, Annie clenched her fists and prayed. God would never agree that Annie should wear that tart’s dress, sing vile, suggestive songs, and flash her legs for drunken men.

But Elva!

Please, Lord, guide me though this dark valley.

A key rattled in the doorway.

Annie braced herself. If she could get past Claude, she would run, find Elva, and get away. Go somewhere, somehow. Throw herself on the mercy of the men in this logging camp—the very ones Claude said would pay to see that dreadful harlot’s gown.

The wooden door of the secluded, one-room shack swung hard and crashed against the wall. Elva fell onto her knees, clutching her chest. “You have to run!” Elva, eyes wild with terror, lifted her head. Annie saw Elva’s face was battered; a cut on her cheek bled freely.

Expecting Claude and Blanche to be right behind the gray-haired woman, Annie rushed forward and dropped to Elva’s side. “Elva, what did they do to you?”

“I heard. . .I heard Claude making plans, awful plans for you. He caught me eavesdropping. He thought he’d knocked me cold, but I lay still and waited until he left. He’d hung the key on a nail, and I stole it and slipped away to set you free.” Elva staggered to her feet, every breath echoed with pain. She stretched out a shaking hand, and Annie saw Elva’s black velvet reticule. The one the sweet pianist, who made Annie’s voice sound as pretty as a meadowlark, carried always. “There’s money. All I’ve saved.” Elva coughed, cutting off her words. She breathed as if it hurt. “T–Take it and go. There’s a wagon. It’s already left, but run, catch it. Ride to town. Enough.” Coughing broke her voice again and Elva’s knees wobbled. She clung tight to Annie. “Enough for one train ticket.”

Annie realized what Elva was saying. “No, I won’t leave you.”

“It’s my heart.” Elva sagged sideways, clutching her chest. Annie couldn’t hold her dead weight, slight though Elva was. They both lowered to the floor. “When Claude landed his first blow, I felt my heart give out. Oh, Annie, the things he threatened for you. The evil, ugly words from a serpent’s mouth. My precious girl. Run. You must run.”

“I won’t leave you. They’ll kill you, Elva.”

“No. My heart. I’ve felt it coming for months and tonight’s the end. They can’t harm me anymore.”

“Elva, don’t talk like that.” Tears wanted to fall, but Annie had no time for such weakness. “You’re all I have!”

“Your father. Go home.”

“He doesn’t want me. You know that.”

Elva’s hand closed over the already bruised place on Annie’s wrist. Elva clearly saw what Annie had already suffered at Claude’s hands. “Go. There’s no time. What they want from you is a fate worse than death.”

Annie gasped. Those words could mean only one thing. She glanced at the indecent dress. A harlot’s dress.

“God is calling me home, my beautiful girl. He’s taking me b–because He knows you’d never leave me. God in heaven is rescuing us both. I’ll go home and so will you. I believe that.”

Annie looked into Elva’s eyes, and even now they clouded over.

“Go. Please. It’s my fault you’re in this place. I thought we’d bring the Lord to these people with your beautiful singing. I convinced you to stay when the Leveques took over. If you stay I will have died for nothing, Sw–Sweet Annie.”

Elva’s grip tightened until Annie nearly cried out in pain. Then as quickly as the spasm had come, it was gone.

And so was Elva. She sank, lifeless, to the floor.

Annie saw the very moment Elva’s spirit left her body—a heartbreaking, beautiful moment, because now Elva was beyond pain.

But Annie wasn’t.

“If you stay I will have died for nothing.”

A loud snap of a twig jerked Annie’s head around. She gazed into the nearby woods surrounding the sequestered shack she’d been locked in. The Leveques were coming.

“What they want from you is a fate worse than death.”

As if God Himself sent lightning to jolt her, Annie clutched Elva’s reticule, leaped to her feet, and ran.

“There’s a wagon. It’s already left, but run, catch it. Ride to town.”

Annie gained the cover of the woods and, without looking back, began moving with painstaking silence.

She heard Claude’s shout of rage when he discovered the cabin door ajar.

Poor Elva. No one to bury her. No one to make her funeral a testimony to her life of faith.

Annie hated herself for running away. It was cowardly. There had to be some way to stay and pay proper respect, see to a decent Christian burial. Every decent part of herself said, “Go back. Face this.”

She kept moving. Elva had insisted on it. Common sense confirmed it. God whispered it in her heart to move, hurry, be silent.

Silence was her only weapon and Annie used it. She’d learned silence in the mountains growing up, slipping up on a deer or an elk. Slipping away from a bear or a cougar.

As much as Annie had loved her mountain home, she’d never learned to hunt. Pa fed the family. But she loved the woods and was skilled in their use.

Heading for the trail to town, she was careful to get close enough to not lose her way but stay off to the side.

Not long after she’d started out, she saw Claude storming down the trail toward town. He’d catch the wagon Elva spoke of long before she did. And, she hoped, insist on searching it. Once Claude assured himself that Annie wasn’t there, she’d have her chance.

Annie felt the bite of the cool night air. She heard an owl hoot in the darkness. The rustle of the leaves covered tiny sounds she might make as she eased along. She knew the trail. She knew the night. She knew the woods.

All of it was filled with treachery.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

THE GREAT CHRISTMAS BOWL



I love love love this book!


Trout, football, and soup come together in a great story about one mom's quest for the perfect holiday. More than once I laughed--probably because I could SO identify with the heroine. Somehow I know this would be me, had I a son playing football. Then, I must admit I shed a tear at the end. There's something so warm and homey about a Susan May Warren book, and I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.



About The Great Christmas Bowl:Marianne Wallace is focused on two things this holiday season:planning the greatest family Christmas ever and cheering on heryoungest son’s team in their bid for the state championship.Disaster strikes when the team loses their mascot-the Trout. Is itgoing too far to ask her to don the costume? So what if her husbandhas also volunteered her to organize the church Christmas tea.When football playoffs start ramping up, the Christmas tea startsfalling apart. Then, one by one her children tell her they can’t comehome for Christmas.As life starts to unravel, will Marianne remember the true meaning ofthe holidays?


About Susan:
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-fournovels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christyaward finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner ofthe Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year.Her larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaimwith readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events andretreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferencesaround 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 of http://www.mybooktherapy.com/, a story-craftingservice that helps authors discover their voice. Susan makes her homein northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons infootball, and her daughter in local theater productions (anddesperately missing her college-age son!) A full listing of hertitles, reviews and awards can be found at: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/


Link to Buy the Book:http://www.christianbook.com/great-christmas-bowl-susan-warren/9781414326788/pd/326788?event=AFFp=&
The Great Christmas Bowl website: http://thegreatchristmasbowl.blogspot.com/The website features a note from the author, fun updates from Big LakeGazette, info on how to host your own Great Christmas Bowl Tea tobenefit a local ministry or charity and a fun Recipe Exchange contest!

CONTEST: Be a part of the Great Christmas Bowl recipe exchange!Susan loves getting recipes from friends, and sharing the deliciouscookies, soups, breads and other fun fixings that go with celebratingthe Christmas season. More than that, she loves the crazy storiesabout favorite Christmases – serious, touching, funny…whatever. Findthe recipe contest here:http://thegreatchristmasbowl.blogspot.com/2009/07/recipe-exchange.html
Will you share your story and recipe with Susan and the readers of theGreat Christmas Bowl? She will post your story and recipe on the FRONTPAGE of the Great Christmas Bowl website, and send you a link when itgoes up so you can tell all your friends. Then, at the Great ChristmasBowl party (December 5th, 10am, online! Details TBA) she’ll make theentire cookbook available for download!
For every recipe/story you submit (up to 3), you will be entered in adrawing to receive one of SMW’s collections (Noble Legacy, Team Hope,Heirs of Anton, Deep Haven Series, Josey series, or THE ADVANCED COPYof Sons of Thunder – Susie’s brand new epic World War 2 novel, due outin January 2010!)

Go – run, get your recipe, then come back here and click on the linkbelow to share your Christmas memories!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Fields Of Grace

Bethany House (October 2009)

by

Kim Vogel Sawyer



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Best-selling, award-winning author Kim Vogel Sawyer is a wife, mother, grandmother, author, speaker, singer of songs and lover of chocolate... but most importantly, she's a born-again child of the King!

A former elementary school teacher, Kim closed her classroom door in 2005 to follow God's call on her heart to write and speak. Now blessed with multiple writing contracts with Bethany House, Barbour, and Zondervan Publishing, Kim enjoys sharing her journey to publication as well as the miraculous story of her healing from a life-long burden of pain and shame.

Kim's gentle yet forthright testimony lends credence to the promise of Ps. 117:2--"Great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever."


ABOUT THE BOOK

Will their Mennonite faith be shaken or strengthened by the journey to a new land?

With their eldest son nearly to the age when he will be drafted into military service, Reinhardt and Lillian Vogt decide to immigrate to America, the land of liberty, with their three sons and Reinhardt's adopted brother, Eli. But when tragedy strikes during the voyage, Lillian and Eli are forced into an agreement neither desires.

Determined to fulfill his obligation to Reinhardt, Eli plans to see Lillian and her sons safely settled on their Kansas homestead--and he's equally determined that the boys will be reared in the Mennonite faith. What he doesn't expect is his growing affection for Lillian--and the deep desire to be part of a family.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Fields Of Grace, go HERE

Monday, September 21, 2009

WHAT DID I MISS ? WHAT DID I MISS?

Welcome home, friends! How was the conference? I'm sure there are a gazillion stories to share, and I do so hope you all took great notes and pictures so I can glean from your experience :D

As for us, we've been hanging out quietly in our corner of the world, pounding down math facts like an ice-cold Diet Coke on a summer's day. So far:

* dd5 has learned her +1's and has them drilled into her memory--this week we are moving on to +2's.

*both kidlets have learned 5 memory verses! (Is it selfish that one of the first 5 I taught them was Ephesians 6:1--Children obey your parents?)

*both girls can decode any consonant-vowel-consonant word (at different speeds, of course.) It's interesting to see their different learning styles. DD3 can power through each word, one letter at a time, and come up with the right blends. DD5 must "do the code" where she decodes the vowel first, blends it with the first letter of the word, then adds on the last consonant to make it happen. Amazing to watch their brains at work!

*DD5 has completed enough work in the first 5 weeks that I've realized we will run out of material by Christmas. Oy! Not that buying new books is a bad thing. I've discovered I'm a devout curriculum junkie.

Anyhoo, hopefully I'll have a chance to check out a few posts from you all this week and see what happened at conference!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

THROUGH THE FIRE




There were times this book left me breathless as I walked through the flames with firefighter Aidan O'Neill. After reading this book, I feel like I'd been on the front lines. Good characterization and drama, a dollop of romance, and a surprising twist at the end. This book could only have been written by a real-life firefighter. Highly recommend for those who love action. Looking forward to future works by author Shawn Grady!

From the Back Cover:Even Smoke Runs from the Fire

Firefighting burns in Aidan O'Neill's blood, but his innate gift for reading flames has made him overconfident and sometimes puts lives in danger. When one call goes horribly wrong and a rookie is hurt, Aidan ends up suspended and finds himself questioning everything.

It couldn't have happened at a worse time.

An arsonist is targeting Reno, leaving a scorched path of destruction. The department needs Aidan back, but his return is troubled. The gift he relied on for so long has gone silent...and it's as though the fires are coming for him, hunting him down. Teaming with a beguiling fire investigator who may know more than she's saying, Aidan must discover where his trust rests as the flames burn ever closer.

BIO: Shawn Grady has served for more than a decade as a firefighter and paramedic in Reno, NV, where he lives with his wife and three children. He was named "Most Promising Writer" at the 2009 Mt. Herman Writers Conference. This is his debut novel.

Get your copy HERE!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TIDINGS OF GREAT BOYS

My daughter and I are currently playing tug-of-war with this book, so my thoughts will have to wait. I did, however, sneak in the first few pages and let's just say with Scotland and boys, I sense a winning combo.


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Tidings of Great Boys

FaithWords (September 8, 2009)

by

Shelley Adina



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Award-winning author Shelley Adina wrote her first teen novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages.

Shelley is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She writes books about fun and faith--with a side of glamour. Between books, Shelley loves traveling, playing the piano and Celtic harp, watching movies, and making period costumes.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Finals week is approaching and Mac is still undecided on where to spend the holidays. Normally she'd go home to Scotland, but spending two weeks alone in the castle with her dad isn't as appealing as it used to be. So she invites Carly, Lissa, Gillian, and Shani to join her for the holidays!

Mac is determined to make this the best Christmas ever. She even decides to organize the traditional Hogmany dance for New Year's Eve. If she can get her mother involved in the dance, maybe her parents will finally get back together.

But when Mac and the girls arrive in Scotland, they are faced with bad news: the castle is falling apart and Mac's parents are struggling financially. Not only that, but Shani is in big trouble with Prince Rashid's royal family. Can the girls find a way to celebrate the holidays, get Mac's parents back together, save the castle, and rescue Shani from her relentless pursuers? There's only one way to find out...

If you would like to read the first chapter of Tidings of Great Boys, go HERE

Monday, September 14, 2009

IT'S ABOUT TIME...

....for the ACFW conference.

Sadly {insert BIG sniff} I won't be attending. Yes, I will miss out on the incredible learning opportunities, that vomity feeling before editor appointments, recovering from said feeling by scarfing down multiple, delectable hotel desserts, and all the late-night laughter.

I'll be staying home and holding down the fort with Sheba as my comfort. Yep, that was the trade. Super-hubby told me I could buy Sheba AND go to conference, but I couldn't dismiss that niggling, squirming feeling in my heart that said to be prudent, instead.

While you're there, take lots and lots of notes and pictures, and most of all, eat a dessert for me :-)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just Between You and Me

I'm LOVING this book! Unfortunately, everyone keeps interrupting me, but that's beside the point. The point is that the story, characters, and HUMOR are totally awesome. We NEED more books like this. If you're a fan of humorous-women's-fiction-that-can-no-longer-be-called-chick-lit, then you will love this book too.



This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Just Between You And Me

Thomas Nelson (September 1, 2009)

by

Jenny B. Jones



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I write Christian fiction with a few giggles, quite a bit of sass, and lots of crazy. My novels include the Katie Parker Production series and So Not Happening. I would also like to take credit for Twilight , but somewhere I think I read you’re not supposed to lie.

When I’m not typing my heart out (or checking email), I teach at a super-sized high school in Arkansas.

My students are constantly telling me how my teaching changes their lives and turned them away from drugs, gangs, and C-SPAN.

Okay, that’s not exactly true.

Since my current job leaves me with very little free time, I believe in spending my spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits such as:

-watching E!
-updating my status on Facebook
-catching Will Ferrell on YouTube and
-writing my name in the dust on my furniture

I’d love to hear about you, so drop me a note. Or check me out on Facebook.




ABOUT THE BOOK

The only thing scarier than living on the edge is stepping off it.
Maggie Montgomery lives a life of adventure. Her job as a cinematographer takes her from one exotic locale to the next. When Maggie's not working, she loves to rappel off cliffs or go skydiving. Nothing frightens her.

Nothing, that is, except Ivy, Texas, where a family emergency pulls her back home to a town full of bad memories, painful secrets, and people Maggie left far behind . . . for a reason.

Forced to stay longer than she intended, Maggie finds her family a complete mess, including the niece her sister has abandoned. Ten-year-old Riley is struggling in school and out of control at home. The only person who can really handle the pint-sized troublemaker is Conner, the local vet and Ivy's most eligible bachelor. But Conner and Maggie keep butting heads--he's suspicious of her and, well, she doesn't rely on anyone but herself.

As Maggie humorously fumbles her way from one mishap to another, she realizes she's going to need to ask for help from the one person who scares her the most.

To save one little girl--and herself--can Maggie let go of her fears and just trust God?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Just Between You And Me, go HERE

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

WOOT WOOT

I did it I did it I did it I did it I did it!

What, you ask?

I finally broke the 10 pound mark. Now, granted, tomorrow I may fluctuate upward, but this is the first time I've hit that mark since THIS POST! All the cardio/weights/power yoga/walking has finally paid off, and none too soon.

Bet you're wondering how I celebrated. If you're guessing 2 grilled cheese sandwiches slathered in ranch dressing and an ice cream bar--you're correct.

You know, some habits are really hard to break.

Monday, September 07, 2009


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Blue Enchantress

Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)

by

M.L.Tyndall



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



M. L. (MaryLu) Tyndall grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she'd only give her heart to Him completely.

She had written stories her whole life, but never had the confidence to try and get any of them published. But as God began to change her heart, He also showed her that writing had been His wonderful plan for her all along!

Her other current release in the Charles Towne Belles series includes The Red Siren.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Betrayed by the man she longed to marry, Hope Westcott is about to be auctioned off as a slave to the highest bidder on an island in the Caribbean . After enduring a difficult childhood in an unloving home, Hope?s search for love and self-worth have led her down a very dangerous path. All she ever wanted was to find true love and open an orphanage where she could raise children with all the love she never experienced as a child.? But how can a woman with a sordid past ever hope to run an orphanage, let alone attract the love of an honorable man?

Determined to overcome the shame of his mother?s past, Nathaniel Mason worked for many years to build his own fleet of merchant ships in an effort to finally acquire the respect of Charles Towne society. Ignoring the call of God on his life to become a preacher, he forges ahead with his plans for success at a distant port in the Caribbean , when he sees a young lady he knows from Charles Towne being sold as a slave. In an effort to save Hope, he is forced to sell one of his two ships, only to discover that her predicament was caused by her own bad behavior. Angry and determined to rid himself of her as soon as possible, Nathaniel embarks on a journey that will change the course of his life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Blue Enchantress, go HERE

View The Book Trailer:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

LOST MISSION

Literary fans are in for a treat! Lost Mission sweeps you into the world of both the modern day and old Southwest. Athol Dickson has a way of bringing the setting alive and making the reader a part of the story. Check out the blurb below:

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:



Lost Mission

Howard Books (September 15, 2009)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Athol Dickson is an award-winning author of several novels. His Christy Award-winning novel River Rising was name one of the “Top Ten Christian Novel of 2006” by Booklist magazine. He lives in California with his wife.


Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (September 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416583475
ISBN-13: 978-1416583479

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Lost Mission

By Athol Dickson


[Howard Fiction Logo] Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

www.howardpublishing.com


Lost Mission © 2009 Athol Dickson


All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address Howard Subsidiary Rights Department, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.


WordServe Literary Agency


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data TK


ISBN-13: 9781416583479

ISBN-10: 1416583475



10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


HOWARD and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.


Manufactured in TK


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Edited by Nicci Jordan Hubert

Cover design by DesignWorks

Interior design by TK


This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or publisher.


The two angels arrived

at Sodom in the evening,

and Lot was sitting

in the gateway of the city.

When he saw them,

he got up to meet them

and bowed down

with his face

to the ground.

—The Book of Genesis




In the event of a suspicious find

those exposed should be re-vaccinated

and placed under medical supervision for 21 days . . .

The potential risk to public health is so great

that a contingency plan must be in place.

—Margaret Cox,

“Crypt Archaeology: an approach”

Institute of Field Archaeologists, Paper Number 3



Capítulo 1

La Día de los Reyes, 6 de Enero, 1767

Let us begin the story of La Misión de Santa Delores on the holy day of the three kings, in Italy, in Assisi. To commemorate his twentieth year among the Franciscan brothers, Fray Alejandro Tapia Valdez made a pilgrimage to his beloved San Francisco’s humble chapel, the Porziuncola. For more than a week the friar prayed before the chapel’s frescos, rarely ceasing for food or sleep, But despite his lengthy praises and petitions, despite his passionate devotion to Almighty God, Fray Alejandro was a pragmatic man. He did not believe the rumor, common in his day, that the frescos’ perfection was beyond the reach of human hands. As we shall see, in time the friar would reconsider.

The Franciscan stood five feet four inches tall, an average Spaniard’s height in the eighteenth century. He was broad and unattractive. Heavy whiskers lurked beneath the surface of his jaw, darkly threatening to burst forth. Fray Alejandro’s brow was large and loomed above the recess of his eyes as if it was a cliff eroded by the pounding of the sea and ready to crash down at any moment. The black fullness of his hair had been shaved at the crown, leaving only a circular fringe around the edges of his head. His nose, once aquiline and proud, had become a perpetual reminder of the violence that had flattened it at some time in the past.

For all its ugliness, Fray Alejandro’s visage could not mask the gentleness within. His crooked smile shed warmth upon his fellow man. His hands were ever ready with a touch to reassure or steady, or to simply grant the gift of human presence. When someone spoke, be they wise or not, he inclined his head and listened with his entire being, as if the speaker’s words had all the weight of holy writ. In his eyes was love.

Love does not defend against the sorrows of this world, of course. On the contrary, each day as Fray Alejandro knelt in prayer at the Porziuncola he became more deeply troubled. His imagination had recently been captured by strange stories of the heathen natives of the new world, isolated wretches with no knowledge of their Savior. This tragedy grew in Alejandro’s mind until he groaned aloud in sympathy for their unhappy souls. Other brothers kneeling on his left and right cast covert glances at him. Many thought his noisy prayers an uncouth intrusion, but caught up as he was in sacred agony, Alejandro did not notice.

Then came that holy day of the three kings, when in the midst of his entreaties for the pagans of New Spain, Fray Alejandro suddenly felt a painful heat as if his body was ablaze. In this, the first of his three burnings, Alejandro became faint. He heard a whisper saying, “Go and save my children.” The bells of Saint Mary of the Angels begin to peal, although it was later said the ropes had not been touched. As startled pigeons burst forth from the bell tower, Alejandro rose.

How like the Holy Father to command such a journey on that day of days! Without a backwards glance Fray Alejandro strode away from San Francisco’s little chapel as if following a star, determined to return at once to Hornachuelos, in Cordoba, there to seek permission from the abbot of the monastery of Santa Maria de los Angeles for a voyage to New Spain.

The abbot’s assent was quickly given, but Fray Alejandro spent many months waiting on the vast bureaucracy of King Carlos III to approve his passage. Still, while the wheels of government turn slowly, slowly they do turn.

Finally, in late May of the year 1767 the good friar stood at the bulwarks of a galleon in the West Indian Fleet, tossed by the Atlantic, quite ill, and protected from the frigid spray by nothing but his robe of coarse handmade cloth. In spite of the pitching deck, always Alejandro faced New Spain, far beyond the horizon. His short broad body seemed to strain against the wind and ocean waves with eagerness to be about his Father’s business.

But let us be more patient than the friar, for this is just the first of many journeys we shall follow as our story leads us back and forth through space and time. Indeed, the events Fray Alejandro has set in motion have their culmination far into the future. Therefore, leaving the Franciscan and his solitary ship, we cross many miles to reach a village known as Rincon de Dolores, high among the Sierra Madres of Jalisco, Mexico. And we fly further still, centuries ahead of Alejandro, to find ourselves in these, our modern times.

Accompanied by norteño music blaring from loudspeakers and by much celebratory honking of automobile horns, we observe the burning of a makeshift structure of twigs and sticks and painted cardboard, which seemed a more substantial thing once it was engulfed, as if the trembling flames were masons hard at work with red adobe. The people of the village of Rincon de Dolores were encouraged by the firmness of the fire. All the village cheered as the imitation barracks burned before them. They cheered, and with their jolly voices dared a pair of boys to stay in the inferno just a little longer.

There was much to enjoy on that Feast Day of Fray Alejandro—the floral garlands, the children in their antique costumes, the pinwheels spun by crackling fireworks, the somber procession of the saints along the avenida—but one citizen did not join the festivities.

Guadalupe Soledad Consuelo de la Garza trembled as she watched the flaming reenactment of the tragedy of La Misión de Santa Dolores. Who knew, but possibly this year the boys would stay too long within the flames? Who knew, but possibly this time the sticks would burn, the cardboard become ash and rise into the sky, and “Alejandro” and “the Indian” would not emerge? Spurred to foolishness by those who called for courage, might this be the year when merrymaking turned to mourning? The young woman with the long name—let us call her merely Lupe—feared it might be so, while the imitation barracks burned and the boys remained inside.

As was their ancient custom, after the fire was set by eager boys in Indian costumes, the village people chanted, “Muerte! Muerte! Muerte! Death to Spaniards! Death to traitors!” Their refrain arose in tandem with the flames. Only when the fire ascended to the middle of the mock barrack’s spindly walls did some within the crowd begin to yell, “Salido! Salido! Salido!” Come out! they called, a few of them at first, mostly girls and women, then as the minutes slowly passed this call became predominant, until the entire village shouted it as one, Come out! and the boys inside could flee the fire with honor.

Yet they did not come.

“Agua!” someone shouted, probably the boys’ parents, and nearby men with buckets hurried toward the crackling barracks walls. “Agua rapido!” they shouted, and the first man swung his bucket back, prepared to douse a small part of the flames.

Such wild and forceful flames, and so little water, thought young Lupe. Holy Father, please protect them.

Even as she prayed, the first man thrust his bucket forward. Water sizzled in the burning sticks and rose as steam, and from the conflagration burst two little figures. One boy came out robed from head to foot in gray cloth, the cincture at his waist knotted in three places to bring poverty, obedience and chastity to mind. He carried a bundle, the sacred retablo of Fray Alejandro concealed in crimson velvet, a small altarpiece which no one but Padre Hinojosa, the village priest, would ever see. The other boy came nearly naked with only a covering of sackcloth, his bare arms and legs agleam with aloe sap as protection from the heat. The fire around them roared.

Chased by swirling coals and sparks the two brave boys went charging through the crowd, yet no one turned to watch. It was as if young Alejandro and the Indian were unseen, as if they were already spirits on their way to heaven. All the village chanted “Muerte! Muerte! Muerte!” again. All the village faced the burning barracks. All of Rincon de Dolores called for death to Spaniards, death to traitors as the two small figures fled invisibly across the plaza to the chapel, where they entered and returned the treasure, the retablo handed down through centuries.

Alone among the village people, only Lupe seemed to see the boys escape. Watching from the shop door, she alone thanked God for yet another year without a tragedy; she alone refused to play the game, the foolish reenactment they all loved so well, pretending blindness as two boys cheated death. Lupe’s imagination would not let her join the celebration of their unofficial saint’s escape from murderous pagans. She had never felt the kiss of flames upon her flesh, but she had suffered from flames nonetheless.

Often Lupe recalled the winter’s night when her father had laid a bed of sticks within the corner fireplace. The flames took hold and a younger Lupe drew her blanket up above her head as other children did when told of ghosts. Even now the memory of resin snapping in the burning wood intruded on her dreams, conjuring a thousand nightmares drawn from Padre Hinojosa’s homilies about Spanish saints who perished in the flames, Agathoclia and Eulalia of Mérida, and the auto de fe, that fearsome ritual of early Mexico, the stake, and acts of faith imposing pain on saint and heretic alike. Her most grievous loss, many sermons, dreams and sacrifices of the flesh had left her terrified of fire.

Watching from the doorway, Lupe heard a voice. “Do you think this is how it was?”

Although she had not heard him come, a stranger stood beside her, a man in fine dark clothing with full black hair that shimmered slightly in the midday light like the feathers of a crow. From his appearance this man might have been her brother. Like Lupe, he was not tall. Like Lupe his features called to mind stone carvings of the ancient Mayans. Like Lupe, he had a smooth sloped forehead, pendulous ear lobes, and cheekbones high and proud. His golden skin was flawless, as was hers. Like hers, his lips were thick and sensuous, his teeth the flashing white of lightning, his eyes a pair of black pools without bottoms.

“Pardon me, señor?” said Lupe, unaware she might be looking at her twin.

“Do you think this is how it was?” asked the stranger once again. “With Fray Alejandro, and the Indian?”

Lupe only shrugged. “Who knows, señor? It is a very old story.”

The stranger nodded, his unfathomable eyes focused on the plaza.

Perhaps, being a stranger, he did not know the story of Fray Alejandro, how the Franciscan had walked two thousand, four hundred kilometers to Alta California with two other Fernandino brothers. Because he was a stranger it was possible the man knew nothing of the apostate priests who corrupted Alejandro’s efforts to advance the gospel, how his hope to be the hands and feet of Christ to pagan peoples in the north was undone by Spanish cruelty and indulgence, how Alejandro, forced to flee his beloved mission in the north, had escaped the burning buildings with the Indian, his trusted neophyte companion, the two of them miraculously unseen even as they passed among bloodthirsty savages, much as Saint Peter once had passed his guards in Herod’s prison.

If the man knew nothing of this history he would surely learn that day, for every year at Alejandro’s feast all was reenacted by the village children to commemorate the holy man’s exploits. Rome had thus far not enshrined Fray Alejandro among the saints, but Rincon de Dolores had nonetheless adopted him as their patron, for the man of miracles had settled in their little mountain village when the pagans in the north rejected him, and through many acts of kindness he had become their eternally beloved padre, entrusting them with memories of the mission he had lost up north, somewhere in the hills of Alta California.

Lupe considered speaking to the stranger of these things, but he had departed unobserved. She searched the crowd beyond her door to find him. With the Burning of the Barracks finished now, people strolled throughout the village, passing in the shade of well-trimmed ficus trees around the plaza or along the tiles beneath arched porticos where they haggled with the venders who had traveled from afar to set up booths for the fiesta. Some of the venders offered plastic toys for children: balloons, whistles and balls in a hundred riotous colors. Others hawked recordings of mariachi and norteño music. Sweets, hand tools, shawls and pottery . . . everything was there. Near the chapel on the far side of the plaza one could purchase votive candles and milagros, those tiny metal charms that symbolized the miracles requested of the saints. In spite of so much competition, a few still patronized Lupe’s tiendita, her little shop where soda pop and newspapers and other such necessities were offered to the good people of Rincon de Dolores, Jalisco, high in the Sierra Madres.

Forgetting about the stranger, Lupe left her place in the doorway and tended to the customers who visited her shop all afternoon, both villagers and strangers. She took their pesos as the sun outside moved closer to the western mountains and the shadows lengthened. Finally it was almost time for the best part of Fray Alejandro’s fiesta: the gathering at the plaza. The young woman stepped across the stone threshold of her little shop, where the sandals of a dozen generations had shaped a smooth depression. She closed the wooden door. She felt no need for locks. Dressed in a blue cotton skirt and white blouse with a traditional apron, wearing no jewelry and no makeup, with her pure black hair restrained only by a plastic clip, Lupe approached the plaza.

She followed the familia Delgado along the avenida, Rosa and Carlos in their finest clothing normally reserved for Sunday Mass. Rosa’s blouse was perhaps a bit too tight and too low cut in Lupe’s opinion. Carlos was very handsome with silver tips and silver heel guards on his pointed boots. The three Delgado boys were likewise attired in formal fashion, and the youngest child, darling Linda, toddled on the cobblestones in patent leather shoes, with petticoats and a pretty pink dress trimmed with sky blue ribbons.

Lupe sometimes wished for children. The thought arose in moments such as this, but it was always fleeting. At other times she praised the Holy Father for her call to chastity. It was good to be unmarried unless one burned with passion, as San Pablo said, and her passion was for Christ.

When Lupe reach the plaza, oh, such a festivity! She saw men at their carts selling little whimsies—empanadas and tamales and nopales from the prickly pear—and strolling toy vendors with helium balloons and plastic snakes on sticks, and groups of girls approaching marriage age who moved about the plaza casting covert glances at the boys whom they pretended to ignore. Soon everyone would laugh as mariachis in the central gazebo serenaded blushing grandmothers, then the people would ignore the mayor as he promised vast improvements through a needless megaphone, and they would admire Rincon de Dolores’s own ballet folklorico, the handsome boys in black charro suits with felt sombreros and shoulders proudly squared, and the beautiful girls in swirling multicolored skirts like rose bouquets.

Lupe traversed the plaza, greeting all as friends, for she was a friend to everyone. Like Fray Alejandro, she longed to be the hands and feet of Christ to them. She went slowly, smiling on her way, touching this one, kissing that one, freely offering her kindness. Normally this bonhomie was as natural as breath to her, but that day it was a kind of sacrifice she offered. It came from force of will. She did not feel it in her heart, and she was uncertain why. Perhaps her dread had lingered since the moment when the barracks flames had nearly claimed two boys. Yes, probably it was only that. Yet she sensed something else at work within her heart, a conviction, and a fear.

On the far side of the plaza Lupe approached the embers of the imitation barracks, a mound of charcoal now, a black mark on the beauty of the day. It frightened her, yet drew her closer. Remarkably, it still emitted smoke. Only Lupe gave attention to that fact. All the others laughed and strolled and savored conversations unawares, but Lupe there beside the blackened ruins felt her pulse increase and heard the beating of her heart within her inner ear. She found it necessary to remind herself to breathe. She saw the smoke still rising like a slender column standing far above the village, straight and true, until it met the burning fringes of the sunset. Surrounded by festivities, she turned her face up to the sky and saw the strangest thing among the orange and purple clouds. She saw it, yet it could not be.

“Concha,” she called to a passing friend. “That smoke. Would you look at it?”

The woman, whose seven children swirled around her knees, replied, “I told those foolish men to pour more water on those ashes.”

“But the wind . . . .”

Concha and her perpetually squirming offspring had already passed into the crowd.

Lupe wiped sweating palms upon her apron and tried again to find someone to observe this thing and tell her it was real, but the mariachis had begun their brassy serenades and the people moved away from her, toward the gazebo in the center of the plaza. She stared up at the sky again, and asked, “How can that be?”

Someone behind her said, “Perhaps it is a sign.”

Guadalupe Soledad Consuelo de la Garza looked around and saw the stranger with dark hair that shimmered slightly like the feathers of a crow. She felt comforted immediately, for he too had seen the cause of her confusion; he too stood with face turned toward the sky, toward the smoke arising from Fray Alejandro’s ruined mission, the smoke which drifted north against a wind that traveled south.
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