Friday, October 30, 2009

NANO EVE...

...almost!

For those of you who've known be a while, it comes as no surprise how much I loathe Halloween. Even if it didn't have nefarious beginnings, I'd still never send my kids out begging for candy, nor do I enjoy all the ugly decorations that abound. For years we've ignored the night, laying low, waiting for it to pass.

This time I'll be ready to rock it out because tomorrow night isn't just Halloween, it's NANO Eve. There are a few things I must have in place to get the month off to a great start:

*Chocolate.....check

*Caffeine in abundance.....check

*Healthy munchies.....check

*Story.....check

*Plot.....uh oh

After I get through chapter 3, I may resort to the silly and random writing prompts provided on the NANO site. Hey, it's ok if it's rough because it's a rough draft! I had also hoped to finish the project I'm working on now before tomorrow, but that, dear friends, is so not going to happen. I came close.

Here's the crazy thing--the story I'll be working on is a full length. That means instead of the 1667 words per day to win NANO, I'm really shooting for 2800-3000. This is a huge stretch for me, because on a typical good day I write around 2000. I look at it this way, the first time I did it, 1667 words was a giant leap and showed me what was possible. (Of course, the novel I produced was, quite possible, the worst piece of fiction EVER. Which reminds me, I need to find the hard copy and burn it.)

What are you favorite writing props? What do you have to have in order to pound out the words? If you write with a floppy hat, wearing pajamas and burning incense, do tell....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

THIRSTY


It's taken me a while to post on this because I had to process my thoughts. I have a hard time with suspension of disbelief, so I knew going in to this book I needed to set that aside. While the vampire angle is interesting and the characters are well-drawn, what resonated with me the most are the themes of redemption and self-sacrifice. Also, I must say that Tracey Bateman did a fantastic job jumping genres.



BLURB:

There's no place like home, they say.“Hello, I’m Nina Parker…and I’m an alcoholic.” For Nina, it’s not the weighty admission but the first steps toward recovery that prove most difficult. She must face her ex-husband, Hunt, with little hope of making amends, and try to rebuild a relationship with her angry teenage daughter, Meagan. Hardest of all, she is forced to return to Abbey Hills, Missouri, the hometown she abruptly abandoned nearly two decades earlier–and her unexpected arrival in the sleepy Ozark town catches the attention of someone–or something–igniting a two-hundred-fifty-year-old desire that rages like a wildfire.

Unaware of the darkness stalking her, Nina is confronted with a series of events that threaten to unhinge her sobriety. Her daughter wants to spend time with the parents Nina left behind. A terrifying event that has haunted Nina for almost twenty years begins to surface. And an alluring neighbor initiates an unusual friendship with Nina, but is Markus truly a kindred spirit or a man guarding dangerous secrets?As everything she loves hangs in the balance, will Nina’s feeble grasp on her demons be broken, leaving her powerless against the thirst? The battle between redemption and obsession unfold to its startling, unforgettable end.

BIO: With close to one million books in print, Tracey Bateman is the award-winning author of more than 30 titles. Fan favorites include the best-selling Kansas Home historical series; Color of the Soul, a tale of race and prejudice chosen as an editor’s pick by Christian Book Distributors; and her many popular romantic novels for Heartsong Presents, which boasts more than 20,000 members. Tracey resides in Missouri with her husband and four children.

CLICK HERE to get your copy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

IN ADDITION TO PLOTTING...

....I spent the weekend re-reading Writing the Breakout Novel.

It's been years since I've devoured the pages talking about premise and character and what consitutes a breakout novel. Talk about great preparation for NANO! I've already made a few adjustments to the book I plan to whip out in November. (HAHA, how often can you say "whip out" in reference to writing a book?)

I know I've put out a call for NANO buddies before, but I'm doing it again since I still don't know how to find people on the silly forum. My name is:

Georgiana D

Please buddy me.

Also, if you're an ACFW member, there's a group to join:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/node/3290688

How are your preparations coming?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

THE SWISS COURIER

I am not ready to give this one away yet, but after I do a full review I will hold a drawing. Sooo, the following blurb is to whet your appetite (giveaway will be in Nov!)

Gabi Mueller, a young Swiss-American woman working for American spy interests in Switzerland during the latter days of World War II, accepts a do-or-die mission: safely courier a German physicist working on the Nazi atomic bomb to Switzerland.

Following the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944, the Gestapo conducted a merciless roundup of suspected enemies of Third Reich. While doing background checks of those involved in government work, it's discovered that Joseph Engel, a German physicist born in 1918, is actually a Jew. He was adopted as an infant by a Christian family after his parents died in the Great Flu epidemic that killed millions in 1918. The young Engel, who is part of the team developing an atomic bomb for the Nazis, is unaware of the intense danger he is in. A plant in the Gestapo's office tips off a church pastor in Heidelberg, who, in turn, orchestrates his escape, working in coordination with the OSS (the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA run by OSS head Allen Dulles) based in Switzerland. A young Swiss-American working for the OSS, Gabi Mueller, must safely spirit the physicist and his knowledge into Switzerland before the Gestapo can capture him.


Tricia Goyer is the author of eighteen books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana. www.triciagoyer.com


I've been writing for a living for nearly twenty-five years and met some fascinating and interesting people along the way. I worked for and interacted with Dr. James Dobson for eleven years as editor of Focus on the Family magazine. I've walked into the White House to interview a presidential aide, been escorted into the Pentagon, where I interviewed General John A. Wickam, the Army Chief of Staff (the guy before Colin Powell took the job), and strolled onto an on-location movie set where I yelled a question at actor and funnyman Eddie Murphy.
I've written several books, but the professional and personal highlight has been coming along side Fred Stoeker and all the "Every Man's" books we've done since Every Man's Battle was released in 2000. The series is nearing 1,500,000 in sales, but more importantly, the impact in men's lives has been mind-boggling and humbling. To be part of influencing millions of men's lives staggers my imagination and is something I will treasure to the end of my days. www.mikeyorkey.com
Remember to check back in November for a giveaway, but CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COPY TODAY!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

LEAVING CAROLINA


True Southern flavor! OK, not that I've ever been to the south, but reading this book makes me want to visit. I love the setup of this story, how the heroine's secrets are in direct conflict with her current goals. Light-hearted, but with a strong spiritual thread, Leaving Carolina is a great book with which to satisfy the chick lit craving. The only problem with this book is that it's missing the actual recipe for pickled corn......



BLURB:

If Piper Wick’s own neck wasn’t at risk, she wouldn’t fly home to Pickwick to help her estranged family. But if Uncle Obadiah changes his will to make amends for all the family’s misdeeds, everyone’s secrets will come out, including her own. She is about to let ancient history jeopardize her thriving public relations career and her tenuous romance with U.S. Congressman Grant Spangler.

Piper arrives in Pickwick primed for battle against Uncle Obe’s meddling godson and her snooty cousins. To her surprise, there is more to her hometown, and some of her own family, than she remembered. Uncle Obe’s rugged blue-eyed gardener, Axel Smith, a solder wounded in Iraq, challenges her ideas about love and forgiveness.

Tamara Leigh is a best-selling, award winning author of twelve novels including Faking Grace and Splitting Harriet. She’s also an American Christian Fiction Writer’s “Book of the Year” winner and RITA Award finalist. She holds a master’s degree in speech and language pathology and lives near Nashville with her husband and sons.

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COPY!

Monday, October 19, 2009

OUT OF THE BOX

Less than two weeks before NANO, and I don't have my entire book plotted! This morning I realized how close we are to the start, and I'm starting to have a bit of panic. After all, I don't want to pull up to the starting gate only to limp out on a lame leg...

...or a lame story.

Which brings me to my point.

I LOVE the storyline for my NANO book. It's bold. It's new. It's completely fresh. I guarantee it hasn't been done before in CBA. (For the record, this is the first time I can say that!)

However, it's so new and fresh that it could be considered out of the box, and not in a good way. It's my belief that most publishers don't want an idea that's too far "out there"--at least not if it's written by a newbie. Sure, a multi-published author might get away with it. But lil' ol' me? Hmmm.....I can smell the rejection now!

Of course, I still want to write it, and the great part about NANO is that it's only a month. If I get to the end and I know it won't fly then I've only wasted a month. But I LOATHE wasting time, even if it's only 30 days.

So here's my question to you:

Have you ever devoted your time to a novel that you were pretty sure would never be read, and written solely for the purpose of your own enjoyment?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

WHITE PICKET FENCES


This is the first book where I have to pause before I can pick up another. White Picket Fences is the story of a seemingly perfect family with secrets simmering beneath the surface. It blends the past and present in an emotionally intense story, and somehow this connected with me on a deep level. I really didn't think I could enjoy a Susan Meissner story more than The Shape of Mercy, but wow. That's all I can say--wow.

BLURB:

Amanda Janvier’s idyllic home seems the perfect place for her niece Tally to stay when her vagabond brother disappears in Europe, but the white picket fence life is a mere illusion. Amanda’s husband Neil refuses to admit their teenage son, chase, is haunted but the horrific fire he survived when he was four, and their marriage is crumbling while each looks the other way.

As Tally and Chase interview two Holocaust survivors for a sociology project, they become startlingly aware that the whole family is grappling with hidden secrets, with the echoes of the past, and with the realization that ignoring tragic situations won’t make them go away.

Readers who love emotional dramas and exploring the lies that family members tell each other for comfort and protection will enjoy White Picket Fences. The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like, “What type of honesty do children need from their parents?” Or, “How can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood?” And, “Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and way to abundant grace?”

Susan Meissner is an award-winning author whose book The Shape of Mercy was Publisher’s Weekly pick for Best Religious Fiction of 2008 and a Christian Book Award finalist. Susan lives in Southern California with her husband who is a pastor and Air Force Reserve Chaplain. They are the parents of four grown children.

GET YOUR COPY HERE!

Monday, October 12, 2009

BUT I LIKE BEING A CARNIVORE!


First, I'd like to celebrate my recent success with you, my cyberfriends. With all the straining, pushing, stretching, and grunting that I like to call exercise, I've now lost 13 pounds. Woot woot!


Now for the hard part: a little over a week ago I went for my annual and discussed the results of my blood test with my doc. I have high cholesterol and she strongly recommended that, in order to avoid going on meds, I go on a vegan diet.


THAT MEANS MEATLESS!!!!


{insert scary music}


This was not good news for this meat and cheese loving chick!


So I've been experimenting with different vinegars and herbs for flavor (even though we all know cheese and butter are what really make a meal.) Here's a picture of my lunch, a flavorful combination of bell peppers, onions, walnuts, rosemary, and garlic sauteed in olive oil and doused with red wine vinegar. Yes, it's a tortilla you see for a wrap, but oh well.


Needless to say, I haven't been strict with myself, but I have taken the doctor's recommendations seriously.

Care to share your favorite veggie recipe? Tip? Trick? If nothing else, I need a pep talk!

Friday, October 09, 2009

STRETCH MARKS

Crunchy, tree-hugging, yoga practicing heroine Mia Rathbun finds herself pregnant and single at the opening of the story. What a great way to turn Christian fiction conventions on its head! I found it unusual, at first, to hang out in the world of someone so earthy. But soon I found myself immersed, and on page 149 I had the best laugh out loud moment I can remember in a loooong time. (You'll have to see for yourself!)


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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Stretch Marks

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Kimberly Stuart holds degrees from St. Olaf College and the University of Iowa. After teaching Spanish and English as a second language in Chicago, Minneapolis, Costa Rica, and eastern Iowa, she took a huge increase in pay to be a full-time mom. She makes her home in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband and three young children. She is also the author of Act Two: A Novel in Perfect Pitch.


Visit the author's website.

Stretch Marks, by Kimberly Stuart from David C. Cook on Vimeo.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781448921
ISBN-13: 978-0781448925

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Under the Weather


Mia's nose was stuck in her own armpit. Not a lot of glamour there, but she was working toward a higher purpose.


“Think of how your organs are thanking you for thinking of them, for being considerate enough to stretch them.” Delia's voice floated from the front of the room where, Mia knew without looking, she joined the class in a binding pose that could make most grown men cry like little girls.


Mia breathed an audible breath, collecting a healthy whiff of deodorant-infused sweat. In the nose, out the nose, throat relaxed. She closed her eyes, feeling the ends of her fingers beginning to slip out of the bind. Liver, pancreas, you're welcome, she thought and felt her stomach make an uncharacteristic lurch. The radiator kicked in beside where she stood, infusing heat and a bass hum to the room. Mia focused on an unmoving spot on the floor and not on the spandexed and heaving tush of the woman on the mat in front of her.


“And now using the muscles in your core, slooowly release and come back to mountain pose.” Delia manipulated her voice and cadence to stretch like honey. On any other day, her instructor's voice sounded like a lullaby to Mia, a quiet but persistent reminder to breathe deeply and recycle paper and plastic. Today, though, Mia felt an urge to ask Delia to speak up. She wanted concrete sounds, solid sounds; the feathery intonations landing lightly around the room made her insides itch. She pulled out of the bind and stood at the top of her mat, feet planted, palms outturned.


“Feel better yet?” Frankie whispered to Mia from the mat next to her.


Mia sighed. “Not yet.”


“Let's move into our warrior sequence.” Delia modeled the correct form on her lime-green mat and the class obediently followed suit.


Four poses later Mia hadn't shaken the bug she'd hoped was just an out-of-sorts feeling to be shed with a good workout. She felt elderly, cranky. Not even downward-facing dog had brought any relief. She lay on her back during the last minutes of class, trying to melt into the floor, be the floor. The spandexed woman was snoring. This final pose, savasana, was intended to provide participants final moments to recover, to be still and let their minds quiet before reentering the chaos of the outside world. Most yoga aficionados soaked up the pose. In Mia's class she'd spotted a plump, permed woman wearing a sweatshirt that declared in stark black print “I'm just here for the savasana.”


Today, though, Mia couldn't keep her eyes shut. She curled and flexed her toes, wishing Delia would crank up some Stones or Black Crowes instead of the Tibetan chimes lilting out of the stereo. Her impatience with a woman who freely quoted Mr. Rogers was beginning to worry her. Even in the hush of the room, her thoughts continued in an unruly spin, and when Delia brought everyone back to lotus, Mia glimpsed a scowl on her reflection in the mirror.


“Let's just enjoy the long, strong feeling of our bodies,” Delia said. Her eggplant yoga gear revealed taut muscles. “Our organs are thanking us for a good massage.”


Right. Organs. Mission accomplished, Mia thought, trying to concentrate on the gratitude her body owed her. But her mind crowded with images of bloody, squishy masses, pulsating or writhing in the way organs must do, and she found herself springing from her mat and bolting to the back of the studio. She threw open the door to the ladies' room and gripped the toilet bowl in a new pose, aptly christened “riotous and unexplained retching.” “Mia?” Frankie's voice was subdued, even though a postclass din was making its way through the restroom door.


Mia emerged from the stall. “I guess sun salutations weren't such a good idea.” She washed her face and hands at the sink, trying not to inhale too deeply the scent of eucalyptus rising from the soap. She watched her face in the mirror, noting the pale purple circles under eyes that persisted even with the extra sleep she'd indulged in that week. Mia smoothed her eyebrows with clammy fingers, taking care not to tug the small silver piercing, and glimpsed Frankie's concerned expression in the mirror. “Don't worry,” Mia said. “I feel much better now. Must just be a virus.”


Frankie handed over Mia's coat and a hemp bag proclaiming Save the Seals. “I'll walk you home. Let's stop at Gerry's store for soup and crackers.”


Mia made a face. “Crackers, yes. Soup, definitely not.”


Outside the studio weak February sunshine played hide-andseek with wispy cloud cover. Frankie planted her arm around Mia's waist.


Mia glanced at her friend. “I like the blue.”


Frankie turned her head to showcase the full effect. “Do you? I meant for it to be more baby blue, less sapphire, but I got distracted with this crazy woman on the Home Shopping Network and left the dye on too long.”


In the two years Mia had known her, Frankie had demonstrated a keen affection for adventurous hair coloring. Magenta (advent of spring), emerald green (popular in March), black and white stripes (reflecting doldrums after a breakup), now blue. The rainbow tendency endeared Frankie to Mia, who'd braved an extended though unsuccessful flirtation with dreadlocks during college, but otherwise had settled for a comparatively conformist 'do of patchouli-scented chestnut curls.


“How did this change go over with Frau Leiderhosen?”


Frankie whistled. “She loved it. In fact she wondered if we could have a girls' night out this weekend and take turns trading beauty secrets.”


Mia snorted, which was an unfortunate and unavoidable byproduct of her laughter. The snorts only encouraged Frankie.


“'But, Esteemed Employer,' I said, 'I can't possibly instruct the master! A mere mortal such as I? It'd be like a Chihuahua taking over the dressing room of J-Lo! Or Sophia Loren! Or Gisele Bundchen, a woman who shares with you, dear boss, an impressive German name and an uncanny sense of style!'”


“Stop it.” Mia clutched her stomach and groaned. “Yoga and laughter are off limits until further notification from my digestive tract.”


Frankie sighed. “I do feel sorry for her. I never should have shown up with a mousy blonde bob cut for the initial interview. I was so average librarian.” She shook her head as they slowed near Gerry's Grocery. “Only to turn on her the first week on the job.”


It had occurred to Mia more than once how much she could have benefited from a green-haired librarian in the small Nebraska town where she'd grown up. Not until she was well into adulthood did she realize that not all librarians were employed to scare children, like the dreaded circulation director at Cedar Ridge Municipal Branch with the spidery braid and hairy mole. Mia had cowered behind the legs of her father when he would stop in to check out an eight-track or the latest release by Louis L'Amour. The moled woman had snapped at Mia once when she'd fingered a book on a stand, announcing down her nose that the book of Mia's interest was for display only and could not be checked out. Never mind that Bird Calls of the Northeast had not exactly beckoned to eight-year-old Mia anyway, but the chastisement was enough to keep books at an arm's length for years. How different Mia's interest in reading could have been had a spitfire like Frankie been the one behind the desk! Frankie's supervisor, Ms. Nachtmusik, with her impossible surname that changed with each conversation, didn't know the gift Frankie was to her patrons.


“Hello, ladies.” Gerry looked over his glasses. He stopped pecking madly at a calculator on the front counter. “How are things with you?”


“Mia's sick, Gerry.” Frankie patted Mia on the head. “We need sick stuff.”


Gerry pushed back on his stool and stood. He clucked like an unusually tall occupant of a henhouse. “Sick, Miss Mia? Headache? Stomach? Fever?”


Mia shook her head. “Stomach, I guess. I think crackers will be enough.”


Gerry looked disgusted. “This is not your duty to decide. Miss Frankie and I will take care of the illness. Sit.” He pointed to his stool and waved at her impatiently when she didn't jump at his command. Gerry shuffled off, muttering about the tragedy of young people living in cities without their parents.


Mia slipped Frankie a rolled-up reusable shopping bag and whispered, “Make sure to steer him away from pesticides.” Frankie winked at Mia and skipped behind the man on his mission.


Mia greeted the next few patrons entering the store. She tried watching the game show on Gerry's small black-and-white, but she couldn't seem to follow the rules. I'll just lay my head here for a moment, she thought, pushing Gerry's calculator aside. “Oh, good heavenly gracious, we need to call an ambulance!” Gerry's words seeped like molasses through Mia's subconscious. She wondered who was injured and if it had anything to do with the impossible rules on that game show.


“Mia, honey, are you okay?” Frankie was tugging on her shoulder.


“Hmm?” Mia pulled her eyelids open into the glare of fluorescent lights. Her head was, indeed, on the front counter, but so was the rest of her body. She turned her head slowly to face Frankie, who had crouched down beside her and was inches from her face. “I'm lying on the conveyer belt.”


“Yes, yes, you are,” Frankie said while guiding Mia to a sitting position. She gauged her tone of voice to fit a three-year-old on Sudafed. “Gerry and I left to get some groceries and when we returned,” she enunciated, “you were lying on the counter.” She nodded up and down, up and down.


Mia shook her head. “I was really tired. I needed to sleep.” Her voice trailed off. She kept her hands on her face for a moment, fingers brushing past a stud in her right nostril and the ring in her eyebrow. Eyes open, she peeked through the cracks in her fingers. Behind Gerry, who was patting his pockets frantically for cigarettes that hadn't been there since he'd quit a decade before, stood his son, Adam. Mia tried running her fingers through her yoga-tangle of hair.


Adam cleared his throat and smiled.


Mia realized she'd dropped her hands and had commenced a creepy stare session. “Hi, Adam,” she said too loudly. “How are you?”


Adam bit his cheek in an attempt to take seriously a question coming from a woman sprawled next to a cash register. “I'm great, Mia. You?”


“Fantastic,” she said and swung her legs to the side of her perch. Gerry rushed forward to offer her his arm, Adam close behind. Mia held up her hands in protest. “I'm fine, really,” she said. “Just a little tired, apparently.” She walked slowly to the front door and turned to wave. “Thanks, Gerry. You're a great host. Adam, good to see you. Frankie, are you ready?” She opened the door without waiting for a response and stepped out onto the sidewalk.


Gerry pushed away Frankie's twenty-dollar bill and handed her the sack of sick stuff as she fell in behind her friend. They walked five minutes in silence. Dusk was long gone, the sun having set early in the February evening. Mia was from the Midwest and didn't much mind Chicago winters; Frankie, however, hailed from Southern California and moaned every few steps as wind from the lake found its way through coats and mittens and headed straight for skin.


“I will never know why we have chosen this misery.” Frankie held Mia at the crook of her arm like a geriatric patient. Mia felt too exhausted to protest. At the foot of the stairs leading to her apartment building, she stopped. She watched a dapper older gentleman with mocha skin descend the steps and allow his eyes to fall on her.


“Hey, Silas,” she said.


“Evening, girls,” Silas said. He dropped his keys in the side pocket of his suit and tipped his hat, a soft brown fedora trimmed in striped black ribbon. He cocked his head slightly and narrowed his gaze at Mia. “Girl, you don't look so hot.” Silas furrowed his brow and looked at Frankie. “What's the story, Francesca?”


“We're not sure,” Frankie said. “But don't worry. I'm taking her straight upstairs before she can toss her cookies again.”


Silas took a nimble step back, sidestepping puddles in his retreat. “Honey, I'm sorry. Ain't no fun getting sick.”


“Thanks,” Mia said. She handed him a box of Lorna Doones from her stash of groceries. “Brought your favorites. Goodness knows I won't be needing a visit with Miss Lorna this evening,” she said, wrinkling her nose at the thought.


Silas clucked and shook his head. “Your mama raised you right, girl. I thank God for you, Mia, and I know my dear Bonnie is happy to look down from glory and see me so well taken care of.” He patted her gloved hand. “I couldn't ask for a better neighbor. You get better now, you hear?”


The girls took the steps slowly. When they reached the front door and waited for Mia to fish keys out of her bag, Frankie cleared her throat.


“So, um, what was that business at Gerry's all about?”


Mia shook her head. She dug deeper in her purse. “This is one bizarre virus. I don't even remember making the decision to go to sleep.”


“Yes, right. I didn't mean the counter episode. I meant the eye-lock with Gerry's son.”


“Found them,” Mia said and pushed her key into the lock. “Sorry, what were you saying?”


“Hair-fixing, googly-eye thing with Fig Leaf.” Mia tried to look disapproving. “You and your nicknames. I like the name Adam. I cringe to think of what you call me behind my back.” “Hmm,” Frankie said. “Today would be a toss-up between Vomitronica and Queen of Feigned Emotional Distancing.”


“I'm not feigning anything, for those of us who've read too much Jane Austen,” Mia said. She led the way into the lobby elevator and pushed the button for the fourth floor. The door closed with a shudder and Mia shrugged. “It's really nothing.”


Frankie crossed her arms and positioned her finger above the emergency stop button.


“All right.” Mia sighed. “When I first moved to my apartment, I was momentarily single and also in need of a neighborhood grocery. I found Gerry's, and Adam was always there with his perfect smile and impeccable Persian manners.” She sighed and watched the numbers light up on their ascent.


“Oh, my gosh. This is so Rear Window.”


“Isn't that the one where the woman is paralyzed?”


“No,” Frankie said with labored patience. “That's An Affair to Remember. I'm hinting less at paralysis, more at love at first sight.”


Mia rolled her eyes as the elevator door opened. “I noticed him, he noticed me, we flirted, and then I was no longer single.” Mia stepped into the hallway. “It was nothing. Seriously. As you might remember, I'm happily in love with another man. End of story.” She led the way to her apartment door. “Sorry to disappoint. I was recovering from an episode, remember.”


“Exactly!” Frankie was triumphant. “Your defenses were down, you were caught off guard and didn't have time to censor what was and wasn't socially appropriate--”


“Shh. He might be home.” Mia paused at her apartment door and ignored Frankie's dramatic jab of her finger down her throat.


“That would be so unusual,” Frankie said, sotto voce. “You can't mean he would be eating your food and smashing organic potato chips under his rear as he watches Baywatch reruns on your couch?”


Mia called into the room, “Anybody here?”


Frankie muttered, “Because we wouldn't expect you to be anywhere else.”


Mia pinched Frankie's arm when she heard rustling in the living room. “Lars?”


He stepped into the entryway, blond hair tousled, mouth opened in a wide yawn. “Hey, babe,” he said around his yawn. “Hey, Frankie.”


“Hi, Lars,” Frankie said sweetly. Mia avoided eye contact with her friend and instead pulled her arms around Lars and gave him her cheek to kiss.


“Don't exchange any of my germs,” she said. “I think I'm sick.”


Lars stepped back, nudging Mia out of the embrace. “Really?” He wrinkled his nose. “Like puking sick?”


Mia unbuttoned her coat. Frankie tugged her friend's arms out of the sleeves and unwrapped her from a bulky crocheted scarf. “Like, totally puking sick,” she said, watching Lars for any recognition of her mocking tone. None detected, she rambled on. “She, like, ralphed after yoga and then at Gerry's she totally fell asleep under the scanner.”


Lars had turned and was heading for the fridge. Mia shot a pleading look at Frankie, who sighed and nodded a momentary truce.


“You should have called and told me you were going to the store. We're almost out of soy milk,” he said, nose in the fridge. “And I ate the last Carob Joy after lunch.”


Mia filled a glass with water. Lars had piled his dishes in the sink, and it occurred to her to thank him, as this was a marked improvement from finding them all over the apartment, crusty, molding, and sometimes neglected until they smelled of rot. Determined not to conjure up any more detail of those images and too tired to explain to Frankie later why dirty dishes piled in the sink was a step upward, she sipped her water and shuffled toward the bedroom.


“Thanks, Frankie, for taking care of me,” she said. “I owe you. But I can't think about it right now, okay?”


Frankie followed her into the bedroom. She turned the covers down as Mia undressed and placed a saucer of crackers on the bedside table. “You take care of yourself, do you hear me?” For a woman with blue hair, Frankie could command the maternal authority of Olivia Walton when summoned. “Call me tomorrow morning. Or before if you need me. Not that Lars isn't the nurturing, restorative type …”


Mia moaned. She lowered herself into bed and curled up into a fetal position.


“All right, all right.” Frankie spoke softly. She turned out the light. “Sleep well, Mimi.” She waited a moment for an answer from under the down comforter but Mia was already drifting toward sleep.



©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Stretch Marks by Kimberly Stuart. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

WHEN PIGS FLY



We got a visit from the Swine Fairy.

Or not.

We'll never really know. You see, I took my 5 year old daughter into the doctor's office with a fever and was told they aren't even testing for the flu (any kind) at this point--unless you're already in the hospital.

We adore our doctor because she is sooo wonderful with the kids. But man I wish we had answers beyond our dr saying she'd go out on a limb to say that my daughter has the flu. As a Type A with Hypochondria, I need a sure diagnosis and a course of treatment. In this case, the recommended treatment was a fever-reducer and TLC, at least for those who seem to be weathering it well.

All that said, prayers are much appreciated!!!

And here's my question for you: will you and your family be getting the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available?

Monday, October 05, 2009

A KICK IN THE PANTS


For several months, I've neglected to write new material. Rework old stuff? Sure, because that's easier than staring at a blank page. Yes, I've dabbled, but haven't really probed the lives of new characters and invented their story.


Last year I wanted so badly to join NANO (National Novel Writing Month), but was in the middle of a project. This year, I can use a kick in the pants, hence the reason I signed up for NANO. For those who may not know, it's a world-wide challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. The prize? The satisfaction of having written a novel.



The last few weeks during my spare time--what spare time?--I've fleshed out a few new characters and given them a doozy of a conflict. I've even hashed out a bare-bones plot. According to the rules of NANO, I haven't written a word of the actual book, but I have a good idea how to start. Still have a lot of work to do so that I won't stall out in the middle of the month, but I am starting to get excited.

Have you participated in NANO before? Who's with me this year?

PIECE DE RESISTANCE


A satisfying end to the series. After having read Let Them Eat Cake and Bon Appetit, I felt like I knew Lexi and was walking through a fun journey with a friend. (For that reason, I recommend reading the other books first.) Bring your appetite and settle in for a highly entertaining read! I'm anxious to see what Sandra Byrd comes up with next :-D

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:


Pièce de Résistance

WaterBrook Press (September 15, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Sandra Byrd is a best-selling author of books for adults, teens, and children. Her notable series include the Friends for a Season series, the Secret Sisters series and the French Twist series, which includes the first two Lexi Stuart novels, the Christy Finalist Let them Eat Cake and its sequel, Bon Appetit. A regular contributor to newspapers and magazines, Sandra lives in Washington state with her husband and two children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (September 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073294
ISBN-13: 978-1400073290

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask.

Everything you want also wants you.

But you have to take action to get it.


Jules Renard


If I had known exactly where and in what kind of trouble I was about to land, I’d have stayed in Paris.

“Come on, dear.” A wizened woman dragged a shuffling friend past me and down the long carpeted hallway. “We don’t want to get in the way of Rosa’s granddaughter, even if she’s sitting on our couch.” She threw a dirty look over her shoulder.

I started to stand up and get out of her way, but she disdainfully waved me back into my seat.

“WHO?” her friend shouted as I sank back down.

“ROSA’S GRANDDAUGHTER. She’s sprawling on our couch.” I flinched at the vocal hurricane, but no one else seemed to notice. Or maybe they just couldn’t hear it.

For the time being, I was crashing at the guest apartment at my nonna’s retirement community. Where else could I get in on such short notice? It was twenty dollars a night, and only for a week or so…I hoped. “Well, they do have a lot of singles,” I’d told my best friend, Tanya, as she laughed at the news. “And they do love what’s left of life.”

“I think it’s cute,” she’d said. “You can get a personalized pill container and swap horrible doctor stories.”

“Ha ha,” I’d answered. “Be careful, or I’ll hold your bridal shower there on bingo night.”

I’d stayed with my parents on Whidbey Island for the two weeks since I’d been home from France. Yesterday they’d dropped me and my gear off at the retirement community, though most of my stuff was still in storage awaiting my “real” apartment. And now I sat in the common room, not realizing I’d poached what someone considered her personal couch, waiting for the afternoon bus to take me to my new job.

I checked my watch again. To pass the time, I thumbed through the Gideon’s Bible sitting on the side table, flipping by chance to the first chapter of Philippians and scanning the extra large print until my eye caught something that hooked into my heart.


And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and

more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be

able to discern what is best.


Oh yeah, I thought. Bring on the discernment. I was starting a new job—the job I’d been hoping for all my life and at which I desperately wanted to succeed. And I found myself embroiled in a romantic crisis where I not only didn’t hold all the cards, but the men involved had turned surprisingly poker-faced about their intentions.

Lost in thought, it took me a minute to realize that a kindly looking man had sat down next to me. He tried valiantly, but unsuccessfully, to clear the phlegm from his throat. I scooted over to both accommodate him and to offer us some personal space. He kept looking at me, but as soon as I looked back at him, he glanced away.

Finally he spoke. “Who are you?” he asked quietly. “And what are you doing here?”

That was indeed the question, and not only for my current living situation. I wished I had an answer.

Nonna breezed in through the lobby, snapping her mauve umbrella shut with a force that belied her age. She kissed the cheek of her companion, Stanley Jones, who tottered off to his own apartment, then came to get me.

“Lexi, love,” she said. “I’m glad I got here in time to see you off. Let’s wait by the door. The bus will be here soon.” On the way through the foyer, she whispered, “I thought I’d mentioned, dear—don’t sit on any upholstered furniture in the common areas. When you get to be my age, many of us have incontinence problems.”

Shocked, I reached around and felt my backside, not caring who saw me. Whew. Dry.

Nonna giggled at my distress, taking everything about aging in stride, as she always did, and looped her arm through mine. “I’m glad you’re home.”

I grinned back at her. “Me too, Nonna.”

“Why can’t one of those nice young men drive you to work today?” she asked.

“I don’t want to ask them. It’s…awkward. I’m not sure where I’m going with either of them right now, and they both have their own jobs.”

“Seems to me a man who likes a woman would offer her a ride,” Nonna sniffed.

“I’m sure plenty of men hitched up their buggies and took you to work back in the day,” I teased.

She grinned wickedly and leaned over to kiss my cheek. “So tell me about the Frenchman.”

“His name is Philippe. He’s really nice, a great baker, and has the most adorable daughter named Céline. He’s taking Luc’s place, the one who moved back to France.”

“He’s one of the owners of the bakery?” she asked, checking creds, as always.

“Yes, Nonna,” I said. “He’s an owner. He’s Luc’s cousin, and the whole family owns all the bakeries.”

“What about that lawyer you were seeing before you went to Paris?”

“Dan?” I kept my voice even.

“Mm-hmm.”

“He’s…here still. Of course. I just talked with him a few days ago. It was his suggestion, actually, for the Delacroix Company to lease the space I’ll be working in. The new bakery.”

“That was nice of him. Who’s the better looking of the two?”

“I’m glad to see your values haven’t changed!” I said, but com- pared them in my mind anyway. Philippe was definitely good looking in a continental way, dark blond hair that just touched his shoulders, a bit taller than me. Dan was built bigger, taller, with broad shoulders I loved to see set off by suspenders. His strawberry blond hair perfectly matched his lightly tanned complexion.

“You’re thinking about it, aren’t you?” Nonna poked me out of my daydream. “Gotcha!”

She laughed, and I laughed with her as the rain slid down the outside of the window, my hometown Seattle lights blinking away in the drops. “Thanks for seeing me off today. I won’t be long. Just meeting Margot and getting a quick run-through.”

“Of course I’m seeing you off ! Everyone is jealous that my granddaughter is here. I need to brag.”

I saw the bus rounding the corner about a half mile down the road. Nonna saw it too.

“Go get ’em,” she said. “And bring something home from the bakery. Anything with fruits and nuts will be right at home in this place.” She grinned, but I knew she loved her home and her friends.

I walked out the door and started toward the covered bus stop. Not a moment later, though, a motorcycle pulled up and parked in front of the retirement center door a few feet away. Even with the helmet on, I recognized him immediately.

“Philippe!”

What is he doing here? Quickly followed by, He looks good!

“Good afternoon, mademoiselle.” He hopped off the bike and walked toward me, holding out a helmet. “As your employer, it’s my responsibility to get you to work on your first day at the new job, n’est-ce pas? And I was eager to see you again. Sophie told me where to find you and what bus you were likely to take.”

“Oh, thank you,” I said. I introduced him to Nonna, who’d come running out as soon as she’d seen me talking with a guy. “This is my grandmother, Rosa. Nonna, this is my…friend, Philippe.”

“Enchanté.” Philippe kissed her hand.

“Enchantée,” Nonna responded, pulling back her shoulders and making sure the gathering crowd, their noses pressed against the retirement center’s front windows, witnessed the exchange.

As I got on the back of the bike, I said, “I had no idea you had a motorcycle here. Do you also have a car?”

“Oui,” he said, “I do. Luc left his car for me, and I gave him mine in France. But I thought a motorcycle would be fun too.”

He sped up a little, and as he turned the corner out of the retirement center’s curved driveway, I recognized the truck pulling in.

Dan!

I’d told him I’d be staying with Nonna and had planned to take the bus.

I caught his eye, and he caught mine, and I saw the bouquet of flowers carefully propped in the passenger seat. I had no time to wave before Philippe accelerated and we sped off.

I turned my head and squeezed my eyes shut to avoid seeing Dan’s reaction. Nonna would explain it to him.

Nonna was liable to say anything.

A few minutes later, Philippe pulled the bike up in front of a long, black marble-fronted building in the Fremont district.

“Eh voilà!” he said, parking and then holding a hand out to me. “This is it. Do you like it?”

I took his hand, got off the back of the bike, and looked at the building. There were already two gold fleurs-de-lis over the front door, with the gold-lettered word Bijoux—meaning “jewels,” the name of the bakery—centered over the door. Otherwise, it was a blank slate.

“It’s beautiful!” I walked to the huge picture windows and looked in. The room was mostly empty, holding only a jumble of boxes and supplies, and some tarps left over from a recent paint job. But what lines, what bones. What this place could be!

“I can’t believe I never noticed this building before,” I said. “It’s perfectly perfect.”

Philippe laughed. “It’s been recently restored. That’s one of the reasons Luc was drawn to it…until he found out it couldn’t be used for a restaurant. But, ooh la la, what a bakery, n’est-ce pas? Après toi, mademoiselle,” he said, holding the front door open for me.

I expected to be greeted by the chic calm the exterior promised. Instead, I was blasted by a streak of blue French from the kitchen.

“Margot?” I asked in a small voice.

Philippe grimaced. “Oui. La Margot.”

Philippe’s sister Margot was the one downside to this dream job. Since she was a great baker and a member of the family, she didn’t worry that her attitude might lose her a job. She didn’t bother to sweeten it either.

“Bonjour,” Philippe called in what I recognized as his fake singsong voice. I felt torn between my desire to see my new kitchen and my desire to flee at once. Philippe decided for me, pushing me forward.

“C’est Lexi,” he introduced me to Margot.

“Nice to see you again,” I said in English. It was the polite thing to say, even if I didn’t mean it. She ignored me.

“I’m glad we’ll be working together,” I tried in French, an even graver lie. She didn’t return the favor or grasp my hand, but she grunted. French it was, then.

“Alors.” Philippe led the way toward the back of the kitchen. “This part,” he indicated with his hand, “will be mostly for pastries, which Margot will do. She’ll be here part time and at the other bakeries part time too.” He smiled widely and indicated the largest part of the kitchen. “And this will be for the cakes and catering. That’s you!”

I looked at my part of the kitchen. Marble and stainless counters, and lots of tall glass-fronted cabinets for ingredients. A pair of gleaming industrial mixers. Drawers full of equipment, but not in the easiest-to-reach places. I didn’t know who placed some of the utensils and tools. Maybe the guys who’d brought equipment over from the other bakeries.

“It’s everything I could want,” I said. And it was. My own kitchen. Tiny though it was, it was mine.

Philippe opened an armoire. “Here’s where you’ll store the paperwork and computer, and the phone even fits in there. Will this be enough space for the accounting books?”

I blinked and answered, “I guess so.” He’d be a better judge of that than I would.

Margot slammed a drawer, and when I turned around, I saw her grab her cigarettes and a lighter from the countertop. I wrinkled my nose. They should at least be hidden. As she headed out back, Philippe followed her. “Un moment,” he said, winking.

While they were gone, I turned the radio to a warm, low-key favorites station and began rearranging my work drawers. After ten minutes, I had them just so. I also rearranged my countertops and cake decorating materials so it made sense to me.

When Margot and Philippe came back in, I asked him, “How will the front be decorated? Will there be furniture arriving?”

He took my arm, and we headed to the big front room. I could already envision engaged couples choosing their cakes in a chic, refined, leather-furnished room.

“Hmm,” Philippe said. “I hadn’t thought too much on that topic. I am so busy at L’Esperance…” He shrugged, and I knew the burden of taking over their biggest US bakery. “Would you like to do it?”

“Would I?” I grinned. “I would!” I pictured deep blue drapes framing the windows and subtle gold cording. I’d make an appointment for a window etcher to etch the company name in gold on the glass, just like the Delacroix bakery in Versailles.

It was going to look fantastique.

When we got back to the kitchen, my countertops had been completely rearranged back to the previous nonsensical order. Margot’s back was turned toward me, and she quietly hummed along with the radio—not the station I’d turned on. I looked through my utensil drawers. All returned to the way they’d been before I’d fixed them moments ago. I looked at Philippe. He shrugged. I determined not to escalate things and left everything where it stood—for the moment.

“Lexi?” His voice softened. “I have a few questions about some things for Céline…”

“Oh, yes, when is she coming?” I asked, delighted at the prospect of hugging that sweet little bonbon again.

“She’s at her grandparents’ in London but will be here in a few days,” he said. “I’ve signed her up for the French-American school, but there are some other things…” He opened his briefcase and held out a folder. “Do you know a good doctor? a good dentist? And many other questions I need your help with.”

I found it endearing to see him a little vulnerable for once; he was always so in charge. It made him even more appealing.

“Of course I can help you.”

He smiled. “Perhaps we can talk about it at dinner tonight? Incredibly, I have found a quiet little bistro…”

He must have caught the look on my face, because he stopped mid sentence.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ve got dinner plans tonight.”

“Ah well.” He shrugged, but looked a little forlorn. “Perhaps another time.”

“Certainly,” I said. “Anytime this week. Stop by for lunch or let me know when it’s convenient.”

With that, he handed me a key and took his leave, and Margot left too. I locked the doors behind them and then sat on one of the bar stools next to the counter. I looked around.

It was all mine, my kitchen. Well, and Margot’s too. But I was no one’s assistant anymore. I was a chef.

I checked my watch, saw I had fifteen minutes to get to the restaurant where I’d agreed to meet Dan for dinner, and went to brush my hair. On the way out of Bijoux, before turning the lights out in the kitchen, I did two things.

I put Margot’s cigarettes and lighters into a drawer near her work station, and I turned the radio station back to the one I liked.

As soon as I walked into the restaurant, I saw him at a corner table. My eye caught his, and then my breath caught too. Dan was a good looking man in any pose, but when he smiled, he was downright divine. Though he’d picked me up at the airport and taken me to my parents’ house when I first got home from France, I hadn’t seen him since.

“The world traveler has returned,” he said, standing to pull my chair out and then scoot me back to the table.

“Do you mean from my travels in Paris or the urban oasis of Whidbey Island?” I grinned.

“Both.” He held out a bottle and a glass. “Wine?”

I nodded, and as the waiter came to take our order, we shared the last few weeks’ happenings, culminating in my announcement that I had been to Bijoux that day.

He nodded. “I left work early to come pick you up, but I arrived just a little too late.”

I knew he would bring that up. I knew it. And yet, we weren’t at the exclusive dating level yet, as far as I understood, so I didn’t have to explain myself to him, right? “Philippe thought it would be good to take me to work on my first day,” I said as casually as I could. “And he had the keys.”

Dan nodded and showed absolutely no emotion. Lawyer’s training, I supposed. A minute later, he loosened up again and asked about the kitchen and the countertops and what kind of oven it had—things nearly no non-baker would think to ask.

“Why are you interested in the ovens?” I teased.

“Because you are,” he said simply and without guile. And that was even more appealing than the dreamy smile.

I asked about his job too, and he regaled me with his latest case, somehow making the law funny, something my brother was never able to do. Then his phone rang.

He looked mortified. “I’m so sorry. I thought I turned it off. It’s new.” He took it from his pocket and fumbled for a minute to locate the Ignore button. Before the backlight went off, I saw the caller ID.

Nancy.

I met his eye and he looked away, and then the waiter brought our salads. While he ground some pepper for Dan, I reminded myself, You’re not at the exclusive dating level yet, as far as he understands, so he doesn’t have to explain himself to you, right?

Right.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

INTERVENTION

Wah! I just got this one so I haven't read yet. I'm a slow poke :D However, I do expect this one to be fantabulous, as Terri Blackstock books tend to be. Looking forward to it.




This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Intervention


Zondervan (September 22, 2009)


by


Terri Blackstock



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Terri Blackstock’s books have sold six million copies worldwide. Her suspense novels often debut at number one on the Christian fiction best-seller lists, and True Light, published last year, was number one of all Christian books—fiction and non-fiction. Blackstock has had twenty-five years of success as a novelist.

In 1994 Blackstock was writing for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening drew her into the Christian market. Since that time, she’s written over thirty Christian titles, in addition to the thirty-two she had in the secular market. Her most recent books are the four in her acclaimed Restoration Series, which includes Last Light, Night Light, True Light and Dawn’s Light. She is also known for her popular Newpointe 911 and Cape Refuge Series.

In addition to her suspense novels, she has written a number of novels in the women’s fiction genre, including Covenant Child, which was chosen as one of the first Women of Faith novels, and her Seasons Series written with Beverly LaHaye, wife of Tim LaHaye.

Blackstock has won the Retailer’s Choice Award and has appeared on national television programs such as The 700 Club, Home Life, and At Home Live with Chuck and Jenny. She has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country and the subject of countless articles. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.

ABOUT THE BOOK


Barbara Covington has one more chance to save her daughter from a devastating addiction, by staging an intervention. But when eighteen-year-old Emily disappears on the way to drug treatment—and her interventionist is found dead at the airport—Barbara enters her darkest nightmare of all.

Barbara and her son set out to find Emily before Detective Kent Harlan arrests her for a crime he is sure she committed. Fearing for Emily’s life, Barbara maintains her daughter’s innocence. But does she really know her anymore? Meanwhile, Kent has questions of his own. His gut tells him that this is a case of an addict killing for drugs, but as he gets to know Barbara, he begins to hope he’s wrong about Emily.

The panic level rises as the mysteries intensify: Did Emily’s obsession with drugs lead her to commit murder—or is she another victim of a cold-blooded killer?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Intervention, go HERE

Watch the book Trailer:

Thursday, October 01, 2009

IT'S NOT ABOUT HIM

I haven't yet finished this book, but I have it on good authority that it's really good! Here's the lowdown from my 17-year-old (who stole it from my pile):

“It's Not About Him was a great book! I finished most of it in one day. Michelle Sutton continues to put out good material. She isn't afraid to write it how it is. It's quite refreshing.The characters are completely real and easy to relate to. The storyline is original and addictive! It deals with God, drama, and romance, and what teen doesn't devour those kinds of books? I definitely recommend this book!”

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

It's Not About Him

Sheaf House (September 1, 2009)

by

Michelle Sutton



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle Sutton, otherwise known as the Edgy Inspirational Author, is Editor-in-chief of Christian Fiction Online Magazine, a member of ACFW, a social worker by trade, and a prolific reader/book reviewer/blogger the rest of the time.

She lives in Arizona with her husband of nineteen years and her two teenaged sons. Michelle is also the author of It's Not about Me (2008) and It's Not About Him (Sheaf House 2009). She has nine other titles releasing over the next three years.





ABOUT THE BOOK

Susie passed out while drinking at Jeff’s party and later discovered she’s pregnant. She has no idea who the father is and considers having an abortion, but instead decides to place her baby for adoption. Following through ends up being more wrenching than she imagined, but she’s determined to do the right thing for her baby.

Jeff feels guilty that Susie was taken advantage of at his party and offers to marry her so she won’t have to give up her baby, like his birth mother did with him. But Susie refuses, insisting he should he marry someone he loves. Can he convince her that his love is genuine before it’s too late? Can she make him understand that it’s not about him—it’s about what’s best for her child?

If you would like to read the prologue and first chapter of It's Not About Him, go HERE
GUARDIAN OF THE FLAME

This is a fascinating read. I love the fictional dimension added to real history, so much in fact, that I'm anxious to study this time period. Definitely not a cardboard heroine, which I can appreciate, plus it made the romance thread more interesting. Looking forward to the next in the series!

Make sure to check out the author's website for a cool contest, plus it's a great site to browse!


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:


Guardian of the Flame

B&H Books (October 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



From her earliest childhood, there was nothing Tracy loved better than stepping into another world between the pages of a book. From dragons and knights, to the wonders of Narnia, that passion has never abated, and to Tracy, opening any novel is like stepping again through the wardrobe, into the thrilling unknown. With every book she writes, she wants to open a door like that, and invite readers to be transported with her into a place that captivates. She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel and Jordan to research her novels, and looks forward to more travel as the Seven Wonders series continues. It’s her hope that in escaping to the past with her, readers will feel they’ve walked through desert sands, explored ancient ruins, and met with the Redeeming God who is sovereign over the entire drama of human history.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805447326
ISBN-13: 978-0805447323

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Alexandria, Egypt

48 B.C.


Sophia pressed her forehead against the chilled window glass of her private chamber and tried to capture a glimpse of life, far below and out of reach.

The harbor, more than one hundred cubits down, churned with boats whose sails flapped in the dying sun like the scales of white fish, and with ant-sized servants who scurried to deliver supplies to her lighthouse before its Keeper punished them for their delay.

On a white-cushioned couch behind her, one of Euripides’s plays called for her return to its lines of tragedy. She resisted. The words had already bled into her heart with remembrances she wished to avoid.

Enough foolishness. Shoulders back and eyes unblinking, she crossed the room to a cedarwood desk. Her astronomy charts covered the wall above, but it was a more practical papyrus that she spread on its surface. She weighted the top corners with two small statuettes of Isis and Osiris with a muttered apology to the gods, and let the bottom corners curl upon themselves. The late afternoon sun burned through the window, setting dust particles afire in the air and touching the lighthouse’s fuel consumption chart and the scrawled labor requirements. Sophia retrieved her sharpened reed and ink and added notations to the latest entry.

Work first. Then she could spend the evening brooding over Euripides’s plays, and even the past.

Behind her, sharp knuckles attacked the outside of her door. Only one person knocked like that, and only one person would bother to make the climb halfway up the lighthouse’s three hundred cubits.

The door flew open before she invited entrance. Her personal servant stumbled in, eyes wide.

Sophia jumped to her feet. “Romans?”

Ares leaned against a marble stand that held the sculpted bust of Plato, winded. The heavy-footed Roman legion marched into Alexandria several weeks earlier. Sophia had been waiting for war, as one waits for a ship returning from far-off trade. Knowing it will come, never certain when.

But Ares was shaking his head. “She’s here! She climbed over the – ”

Ares was shoved aside and another figure slid into the room. Sophia’s heart danced over a few beats, then settled into a staccato. The young woman before her smiled, the languid look of a woman who knows her own power. “Sophia--” she extended both her jeweled hands. “How I have missed you!”

Sophia let out her breath with one quiet word. “Cleopatra!” She waved to her servant. “Leave us, Ares.”

The boy backed out of the room.

“And not a word of this!” Sophia called after him.

When he had closed the door she took a hesitant step toward the younger woman. “How? Have you made peace at last with your brother?”

Cleopatra flung the question aside with a wave of her hand. “The little brat knows nothing of monarchy. It is those three leeches that hiss in his ears that are the problem.” She spotted the black and gold kylix of wine and brightened. “I am parched.” She crossed to the table and ladled wine into an alabaster cup. “The sea, you know.” She filled another cup and handed it to Sophia.

Sophia studied her, speechless. Her magnetic power seemed undimmed by her recent exile. Her white robe, trimmed in gold and purple, hung a bit more loosely on her frame.

“You are thinner.” Cleopatra sipped the wine and grimaced. No doubt it had been left too long in the bowl. “Will you never cease to fret over me, Sophia?”

Sophia’s breathing had returned to normal, and she found a place on the couch. “Sit. Tell me.”

Cleopatra came to her, dropped a knee to the couch, then curled herself next to Sophia like a leopard settling to rest. She lifted the skull of a panther from the low table before them and turned it around with her long fingers.

“Did you get in unseen?” Sophia asked.

“Apollodorus rowed me into the harbor in a small boat. We docked in the Eunostos Harbor, away from the crowds. I climbed ashore at the base of the lighthouse and circled to the door. I am safe here, Sophia.”

Sophia swallowed. “Why take such a risk?”

“It has been an eventful few days.” Cleo set the skull back on the table with a thunk.

“I thought you were in Syria.”

“I was. My little brother Ptolemy and his three sycophants are camped at Pelusium, with their armies ready to attack my troops. But I believe the gods have other plans.” She smiled again, the scheming grin Sophia had known and loved since Cleopatra’s childhood.

“What have you done?” Sophia closed tight fingers around the girl’s wrist, as fear clamped itself around her heart.

Cleopatra inclined her head and laughed, then stroked Sophia’s arm with her fingertips. “An opportunity has come to me on the heels of Ptolemy’s foolishness.”

“So what has your brother done?”

“The Roman Pompey fled to my brother, hoping for Ptolemy’s support against Julius Caesar. But Ptolemy’s three advisors decided they would rather gain the favor of Caesar. They greeted Pompey with a knife point.”

“He is dead?”

Cleopatra nodded. “And now Caesar has arrived here in the city.” She crossed one leg over the other and bounced her foot. “My brother’s men sent him Pompey’s head as a gift. Caesar was furious at his adversary’s ignoble death.”

Sophia slapped her thigh. “These barbaric Romans. Impossible to comprehend. They stomp all over the world with their insatiable lust to conquer, but when someone kills their enemy, they are angered.”

Cleopatra’s eyes glittered. “Yes, he sounds fascinating, doesn’t he?”

Sophia’s apprehension returned. . “What are you going to do?”

“Take advantage of the opportunity.”

“It is not safe for you in the city, Cleopatra. You must return to Syria, under the protection of your troops.”

Cleopatra removed her hand from Sophia’s arm and unfolded herself from the couch. “You would have me remain a child forever! I am no longer your student.”

Sophia stood as well, matching the fire in Cleopatra’s eyes with her own. “You are twenty-one!”

Cleopatra flung her hair over her shoulder. Her face was a mere handspan from Sophia’s. Her voice was low. “And I am Queen of Egypt.”

Sophia shifted away, but Cleopatra clutched at her, spun her back to herself. “Do not be angry with me, my Sophia. Tell me you love me still.”

Sophia sighed. I could never control her. “Would I have spent all those painful hours teaching you the languages of Egypt if I did not love you?”

Cleopatra lips formed a pout, reinforcing her youth. “You were well-paid by my father.”

Sophia touched Cleopatra’s cheek. “And I would have done it for nothing.”

The younger woman’s expression cleared. “There, now you have made me happy. Next you must tell me how beautiful I look in spite of my thinness, and then I will be satisfied.”

Sophia looked over the queen’s long reddish-brown curls, her regal features, the fine fabric of her robe and the twinkling jewels stitched to her headpiece and wrapped around her arms and fingers. “Cleopatra, as always, you are stunning.”

The girl fluttered her eyelashes playfully. “You have them all fooled, Sophia. But not me.” She pointed to Sophia’s masculine tunic, carelessly belted. “I know the real woman beneath all your manly clothes and your harsh manner. I know there is something good buried.”

Sophia’s inner restlessness stilled, as though she had grown cold. She nodded once, unable to answer, and then retreated to the couch. Let us speak of something else.

Cleopatra dropped beside her, and leaned her head against Sophia’s shoulder with a sigh. The sun’s last rays splashed through the west window and lit up the gold trim that edged her robe.

“What will you do?” Sophia whispered, knowing she would not like the answer.

Cleopatra did not lift her head. “Caesar is ill-disposed toward my brother and his advisors tonight. I will cause his favor to fall on me.”

“And how will you accomplish this?”

Cleo laughed. “I know it has been a long time, Sophia. But do not tell me you have forgotten how a woman can gain the favor of a man.”

Sophia pulled away from her. “No, Cleo. No.”

Cleopatra tossed her hair over her shoulder. “I have only this brief moment to gain his favor. My brother will surely arrive by tomorrow. It must be tonight.”

Sophia’s stomach clenched. “You are young, inexperienced. And he is a Roman!”

“The world is changing.”

Sophia exhaled heavily. “For over two hundred years your family has ruled Egypt. The Egyptians have come to accept that. And you understand their ways. You respect their love of knowledge, you share their desire to decipher the world. You have even embraced their gods. But these Romans, Cleo, they are crude savages, interested only in blood and victory and power!”

Cleopatra looked away, to the darkening window. “I think you forget how interested in power I am myself, Sophia.”

She traced Cleo’s strong jawline. “Born to rule. Raised to rule. Queen at eighteen.” And exile in the face of your brother’s treachery has done nothing to dull the hunger. “Can I not talk you out of this foolishness?”

Cleopatra’s lips twitched in amusement. “There we are. I knew you would come around.” She pulled Sophia toward her and once more leaned against her shoulder. “Just let me stay until the darkness has fully fallen.” She sighed deeply. “I am so tired.”

Sophia relaxed into the cushions and took the weight of Cleopatra’s exhaustion. The girl was asleep in moments, leaving Sophia to her own thoughts. She let Cleo sleep as the evening wasted.

Her hair hung over Sophia’s shoulder, where her own hair would have lain if she had not cropped it close to her head. She stroked Cleopatra’s robe with one finger, then draped the fabric over her own thigh.

She is everything I am not.

And yet despite their differences, Sophia always found herself more whole in Cleo’s presence. The girl was like pressed oil, filling in the cracks and brittle places of Sophia’s soul with something warm and smooth. When they were together, all the tension and anger that seemed to define Sophia ran out of her, leaving her feeling almost human.

Sophia had begun to doze as well when Ares’s knuckle-bruising knock again sounded at the door. She glanced down to Cleopatra, but the girl’s gentle breathing continued. She shifted her to the cushions, then slipped away to open the door.

“For the love of Isis, Ares, what is it now?”

He stepped in, one hand still on the door. “A message for you, Abbas.” He held a scrap of papyrus. She pushed him into the hall and half-closed the door behind them.

Ares had called her abbas since he was a young boy.. Whether the Egyptian word for “lion” was a compliment or a slight depended on each of their moods.

Ares peered over her shoulder, into her chamber.

“Well, give the thing to me, Ares! Don’t simply stand there!”

Ares sighed and held it up to her. “Brought by one of the Library’s slaves.” He stepped close and held the message to her eyes.

Sophia moved back a pace. “You don’t need to breathe all over me!” She snatched the scrap and read it, her pulse quickening at the request inked there.

“Will you go?”

She scowled at Ares. “Reading my messages now?”

The young man, though half her age, stood much taller than Sophia. He gave her one of his crooked half-grins. “It is a long climb.”

She shoved the papyrus back into his hand and turned away. “There is nothing in the Library that cannot be brought here to me. Send a message to Sosigenes that he may visit me here in the lighthouse if he wishes.”

“The message sounded urgent.”

She whirled on him. “Then I suppose he should run!” Ares pursed his lips, and Sophia exhaled. This boy knew her well by now. He had long ceased to be offended or intimidated by her moods. “Why can Sosigenes not send a report as usual?” she asked herself aloud.

“Perhaps he thinks it is time for you to emerge from hiding.”

“I am not hiding!” Sophia put a hand out to the door. “I rarely need to leave the lighthouse. Why should today be different?”

“Because today someone has asked.”

The door blurred before her. It was true, no one had requested her presence in the city for a great while. “They fear me.”

Ares’s laugh was soft. “Yes, the mighty Artemis, commanding the world from her high tower.”

Sophia’s lips curled into a sneer and she faced the boy again. “Which am I, Ares, a lion or a goddess?”

He lowered his eyes. “Both need sometimes to emerge from solitude.”

“Well, not today. Send the message to Sosigenes. And send ten drachma with it, to remind him under whose patronage he spends his hours.”

Ares bowed his head and turned to the ramp, his silence seeming to condemn her.

Sophia closed her eyes and pressed her fingers into the bridge of her nose. She disliked leaving the lighthouse, and it annoyed her that the old scholar would summon her. She pushed back the thought that Ares’s comments were the true source of her irritation, then reentered her private rooms and lit several lamps. The flames played on the deep reds and blacks of the room’s furnishings, on which she had spared no expense. The luxury of her chamber rivaled any in the palace. The money that flowed continually to the lighthouse enabled her to live as she wished.

She retrieved the wine Cleo had poured. At the window, she lifted the cup to the harbor in a silent salute, then sipped the wine, ignoring its bitter finish. Yes, I live as I wish.

And every day the ever-present sea breezes whispered in her ear like a spiteful friend who would never let her forget.

She spent an hour over the charts, fine-tuning the plans for the coming month, searching for the slightest opportunity to increase efficiency. When the first noises shot up the cylindrical core of the lighthouse, Sophia barely noticed.

Moments later she dropped her reed on the desk, startling Cleopatra. The girl gasped, then heard the shouts. She turned wide eyes to Sophia. “Who is it?”

Sophia tilted her head to the noise again. Her fingers tightened on her chair.

“Soldiers.”
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