Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


As Young As We Feel


David C. Cook; New edition (March 1, 2010)


by


Melody Carlson






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults--with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards. And her "Diary of a Teenage Girl" series has received great reviews and a large box of fan mail.



She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.







ABOUT THE BOOK



Is there room in one little hometown for four very different Lindas to reinvent their lives … together?



Once upon a time in a little town on the Oregon coast lived four Lindas—all in the same first-grade classroom. So they decided to go by their middle names. And form a club. And be friends forever. But that was forty-seven years and four very different lives ago. Now a class reunion has brought them all together in their old hometown—at a crossroads in their lives.



Janie is a high-powered lawyer with a load of grief. Abby is a lonely housewife in a beautiful oceanfront empty nest. Marley is trying to recapture the artistic free spirit she lost in an unhappy marriage. And the beautiful Caroline is scrambling to cope with her mother’s dementia and a Hollywood career that never really happened. Together, they’re about to explore the invigorating reality that even the most eventful life has second acts … and friendship doesn’t come with a statue of limitations.



If you would like to read the first chapter of As Young As We Feel, go HERE.



Watch the Video:




THE VOTES ARE IN!


I'm not talking about this season's Dancing with the Stars--although I will say I have my favorite and she is still there. BUT, I'm off in the weeds....

The votes are in for the high school talent competition my daughter sang in last night. Unfortunately, they don't announce the winners until today after the repeat performance. Take a listen to my daughter (on the left) and her friend--both amazingly talented young ladies. (Yes, I'm bragging, but what else is a mother to do?)

Monday, March 29, 2010

TRUE CONFESSIONS!

We all love discussing the creative process. The parts of the journey that make us sit back and smile with contentment, thankful to have another day behind the keyboard (or the art project, the sewing machine, what-have-you.)

But today I want to get down to the nitty-gritty.

It recently occurred to me how much I loathe one certain thing, and if I could ever get over it I'd be soooooo grateful. Ready for this?

I LOATHE having to write the ENTIRE book, craft the synopsis and proposal, and THEN get rejected. I long for the day I can write a proposal and three chapters and get rejected off that. LOL!!!

Now it's your turn. What part of the process really TURNS YOU OFF? C'mon people--true confessions!

Friday, March 26, 2010

TODAY I'M THANKFUL FOR.....



....an amazing financial breakthrough that we've been praying for! I wish I could say I was full of faith the whole time, but I have to be honest--I was more in line with good ol' Thomas.



God was still faithful.



What are you grateful/thankful for this week?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SENIORITIS...

.....is not just for high school (or college) seniors--it's also for their parents!

Perhaps it's the missing graduation invitations, or the endless runs to and from school, the special events, filling out the financial aide paperwork, or maybe all the college forms flooding our mailbox. Or maybe it's just a general sense of anxiety that I could be old enough to have a high school senior.

Or maybe it's because I can't go to weight lifting or step class for 3 more weeks, can't sell our place, or don't want to come off Spring Break. Perhaps it's because I'm sick. of. snow.

Whatever the cause, I have hit a wall! It's like I'm living life in slow motion--running in the water, if you will--and desperately need a lifeboat.

Does anyone else have a case of senioritis/cabin fever/a chronic case of the Mondays??? What are you doing to get over it? ((For the record, I actually don't have any suggestions today. LOL!))

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

HEART OF STONE

I picked this up one weekend, really not sure what to expect, not having read a Jill Marie Landis book before. Then--bam! I was hooked. When characters are out of the norm for Christian fiction, I'm all for it. The heroine's struggle to overcome her past, and the questions she had about God because of it, are relatable to so many people. Good read for those of you who enjoy historical fiction!


This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Heart Of Stone
Zondervan (March 1, 2010)


by


Jill Marie Landis






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jill Marie Landis is the bestselling author of over twenty novels. She has won numerous awards for her sweeping emotional romances, such as Summer Moon and Magnolia Creek. In recent years, as market demands turned to tales of vampires, erotica, and hotter, sexier historical romances, Jill turned to writing Inspirational Western Romances for Steeple Hill Books. She truly feels back in the saddle again, working on stories that are a joy to write. With her toes in the sand and head in the clouds, Jill now lives in Hawaii with her husband, Steve.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Laura Foster, free from the bondage of an unspeakable childhood has struggled to make a new life for herself. Now the owner of an elegant boardinghouse in Glory, Texas, she is known as a wealthy, respectable widow. But Laura never forgets that she is always just one step ahead of her past.



When Reverend Brand McCormick comes calling, Laura does all she can to discourage him as a suitor. She knows that if her past were discovered, Brand’s reputation would be ruined. But it’d not only Laura’s past that threatens to bring Brand down─it’s also his own.



When a stranger in town threatens to reveal too many secrets, Laura is faced with a heartbreaking choice: Should she leave Glory forever and save Brand’s future? Or is it worth risking his name─and her heart─by telling him the truth?



If you would like to read the first chapter of Heart Of Stone, go HERE
DELIVER US FROM EVIL

Fast paced action and tight plot, and all the great writing we've come to expect from Robin Carroll. I like that she's writing trade length, giving us more to enjoy! Check out the first chapter 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:



Deliver Us From Evil

B&H Academic (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Julie Gwinn of B&H Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Robin Caroll has authored eight previous books including Bayou Justice and Melody of Murder. She gives back to the writing community as conference director for the American Christian Fiction Writers organization. A proud southerner through and through, Robin lives with her husband and three daughters in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Academic (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805449809
ISBN-13: 978-0805449808

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.
FBI Field Office
Knoxville, Tennessee

Jonathan’s throat closed as he stared at the building from the parking lot. He gripped the package tight in his arthritic hands. Could he do this? Turn over evidence that would implicate him?

His heart raced and he froze. Not the best time for his atrial fibrillation to make an appearance. Despite being on the heart transplant list for eight months, it looked like his progressed heart disease would do him in. The most important reason he couldn’t go to prison—he’d never get a heart and would die. While Carmen wanted him to confess his crimes, she wouldn’t want him to die. The memory of saying good-bye to his beloved mere hours ago scorched his soul.

Her eyes fluttered open. Those blue orbs, which had once sparkled even in the absence of light, now blinked flat and lifeless.

He swallowed hard.

“Jonathan,” her voice croaked, “it’s time.”

Tears burned the backs of his eyes, and he rested his hand over her parchmentlike skin. “No, Carmen. Please, let me get the medicine.”

Her eyelids drooped and she gasped. Air wheezed in her lungs. “Sweetheart, the fight’s . . . gone from me.” She let out a hiss, faint and eerie. “The cancer’s . . . won.”

Jonathan laid his lips against her cheek, her skin cold and clammy, as if in preparation for the morgue. How could she continue to refuse the medicine? Even though she didn’t approve of his means of acquisition, the drugs had kept her alive for five years. Five years he cherished every minute of. He’d do anything to keep her alive and the pain at bay—the intense pain that had become her constant companion these last two weeks. It killed him to witness her agony.

She licked her bottom lip, but no moisture soaked into the cracked flesh. “You’ve done . . . your best by me, Jonathan. I know . . . you meant . . . no harm to . . . anyone.” Her eyes lit as they once had. “Oh, how I’ve enjoyed loving you.”

His insides turned to oatmeal. Stubborn woman—she’d allow herself to die, all because she discovered how he’d gotten the money.

“Promise me . . . you’ll . . . tell the . . . truth. Admit what . . . you’ve done.” Her breath rattled. “What you’ve . . . all done.”

Pulling himself from the wretched memory, Jonathan breathed through the heat tightening his chest. He’d secure himself the best deal possible—immunity—or he wouldn’t decipher the papers. And without him no one could make sense of the accounting system he’d created more than five years ago. Officials hadn’t a clue.

With a deep breath he headed to the guardhouse in front of the fenced FBI building. His legs threatened to rebel, stiffening with every step. He forced himself to keep moving, one foot in front of the other.

At the guardhouse, a man behind bulletproof glass looked up. “May I help you?”

“I need to . . . see someone.”

“About what, sir?”

“I have some information regarding a crime.” He waved the file he held.

“One moment, sir, and someone will be with you.”

Jonathan stared at the cloudy sky. He could still turn back, get away scot-free. His heartbeat sped. The world blurred. No, he couldn’t lose consciousness now, nor could he go back on his promise. He owed it to Carmen. No matter what happened, he’d honor Carmen’s dying wish.

“Sir?” A young man in a suit stood beside the fenced entry, hand resting on the butt of his gun. “May I help you?”

Jonathan lifted the file. “I have some evidence regarding an ongoing crime ring.”

The agent motioned him toward a metal-detector arch. “Come through this way, sir.”

Jonathan’s steps wavered. He dragged his feet toward the archway.

A car door creaked. Jonathan glanced over his shoulder just as two men in full tactical gear stormed toward them. He had a split second to recognize one of the men’s eyes, just before gunfire erupted.

A vise gripped Jonathan’s heart, and he slumped to the dirty tile floor, the squeezing of his heart demanding his paralysis.

Too late. I’m sorry, Carmen.

Two Weeks Later—Wednesday, 3:45 p.m.
Golden Gloves Boxing of Knoxville

Ooof!

Brannon Callahan’s head jerked backward. She swiped her headgear with her glove.

“You aren’t concentrating on your form. You’re just trying to whale on me.” Steve Burroughs, her supervisor and sparring partner, bounced on the balls of his feet.

“Then why am I the one getting hit?” She threw a right jab that missed his jaw.

He brushed her off with his glove. “Don’t try to street fight me. Box.”

She clamped down on her mouthpiece and threw an uppercut with her left fist. It made contact, sending vibrations up her arm.

He wobbled backward, then got his balance. “Nice shot.”

It felt good to hit something. Hard. Sparring with Steve was the best form of venting. The energy had to be spent somehow—why not get a workout at the same time? She ducked a right cross, then followed through with a left-right combination. Both shots made full contact.

Steve spit out his mouthpiece and leaned against the ropes. “I think that’s enough for today, girl. I’m an old man, remember?”

She couldn’t fight the grin. Although only in his late forties, the chief ranger looked two decades older. With gray hair, hawk nose, and skin like tanned leather, Steve had already lived a lifetime.

She removed her mouthpiece, gloves, and headgear before sitting on the canvas. “Old? You’re still kickin’ me in the ring.”

He tossed her a towel and sat beside her. “So you wanna tell me what’s got you all hot and bothered this afternoon?”

She shrugged.

“Come on, spit it out. I know something’s gnawing at you, just like you were picking a fight with me in the ring. What’s up?”

How could she explain? “I’m not exactly keen that the district feels there’s a need for another pilot in the park.” She tightened the scrunchie keeping her hair out of her face.

“That’s a compliment—having you on staff has been so successful they want to expand.”

“But I have to train him. Did you notice his arrogance?” She ripped at the tape bound around her knuckles. “He’s nothing more than a young upstart with an ego bigger than the helicopter.” While only thirty-six, she often felt older than Steve looked.

“You’re so good, you can come across a bit intimidating at first, girl.” Steve grabbed the ropes and pulled to standing, then offered her a hand. “Give him a chance.”

She let Steve tug her up. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even if he had maturity, I still have to train him. With all the rescues we’ve been called out on of late . . . well, I really don’t have the time.” She exited the ring. “Like those kids yesterday.” She shook her head as she waited for Steve to join her on the gym floor. “Their stupidity almost cost them their lives.”

“They were young, Brannon.”

“Please. Any amateur with half a brain should know better than to try to climb Clingmans Dome in winter.” Didn’t people realize if something happened to them they’d leave behind devastated family and friends? Loved ones who would mourn them forever? She fought against the familiar pain every time she participated in a search and rescue. All because people hadn’t taken necessary precautions.

“They didn’t know any better.”

“It takes a special kind of stupid not to have researched your climb.” Most SARs could be avoided if people planned a little more. It ripped her apart that so many parents, grandparents, siblings . . . fiancĂ©es . . . survived to deal with such grief. She’d tasted the bitterness of grief—twice—and the aftertaste still lingered.

Steve paused outside the locker rooms and shifted his sparring gear to one hand. “I agree, but most people don’t see the dangers we do every day.” He tapped her shoulder. “Hit the showers, champ. You stink.”

She laughed as she headed into the ladies’ locker room. Maybe Steve was right and the new pilot just made a lousy first impression. Maybe he’d be easy to train.

Please, God, let it be so.

Friday, 2:15 p.m.
US Marshals Office, Howard Baker Federal Courthouse
Knoxville, Tennessee

“You want me to escort a heart?” Roark struggled to keep his voice calm. He tapped the butt of his Beretta, welcoming it back to its rightful place on his hip.

Senior US Marshal Gerald Demott glared. “Look, I know you think this is a slight, but it’s important. And for your first assignment back on the job . . .”

“IA cleared me of all wrongdoing. I’m seeing the shrink and everything.” He gritted his teeth and exhaled. “I’ve been released to return to active duty.”

“This is active. It’s a field assignment, and it’s important. Here’s the case information.” Demott passed him a folder, then glanced at his watch. “You’d better hurry or you’ll miss your flight.”

Roark grabbed the file and turned to go.

“Holland.”

He looked back at his boss. “Yeah?”

Demott held out Roark’s badge. “You might want to take this with you, too.”

Roark accepted the metal emblem, then clipped it to his belt before marching out of Demott’s office. A heart. His job was to escort a human heart from North Carolina to Knoxville. Any rookie could handle that. But no, they still didn’t trust him enough to handle a real assignment.

He’d done everything they asked—took a medical leave of absence while Internal Affairs went over every painful minute
of his failed mission, saw the shrink they demanded he speak to every week since Mindy’s death, answered their relentless questions. The shrink reiterated he’d been forgiven for acting on his own.

Maybe one day he’d forgive himself. How many innocent lives would he have to save for his conscience to leave him be?

Roark slipped into the car, then headed to the airport. But to be assigned a heart transport? Not only was it wrong, it was downright insulting. After almost fifteen years as a marshal, he’d earned the benefit of the doubt from his supervisors. Especially Demott. His boss should know him better, know he’d only disregard orders if it was a matter of life and death.

But Mindy Pugsley died. They’d all died.

He pushed the nagging voice from his mind. Even Dr. Martin had advised him not to dwell on the past. On what had gone wrong. On disobeying a direct order.

If only Mindy didn’t haunt his dreams.

Roark touched the angry scar that ran along his right cheekbone to his chin. A constant reminder that he’d failed, that he’d made a mistake that took someone’s life. He’d have to live with the pain for the rest of his life.

He skidded the car into the airport’s short-term parking lot. After securing the car and gathering the case folder, Roark grabbed his coat. Snowflakes pelted downward, swirling on the bursts of wind and settling on the concrete. The purple hues of the setting sun streaked across the mountain peaks beyond the runways, making the January snow grab the last hope of light.

Yes, he’d handle this mundane assignment, then tell Demott he wanted back on real active duty. Making a difference would be the best thing for him. Would make him feel whole again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A GOOD WAY TO DEVOUR.....

.....your favorite craft book.

Rarely to I reread a book, unless it is a craft book, and when I read it over it's usually by flipping through the pages to find the part I remember that inspired me. This weekend I picked up James Scott Bell's, Plot and Structure, and started from the beginning.

Here's a summary of how he devours a craft book:

Read 1st time with a yellow highlighter
2nd time with a red pen to mark things missed the 1st time
3rd time write out insights on yellow legal pad
Type up notes

Wow. I have never gone that far, but if a multi-published author/speaker can still learn something new, obviously I can too. (Lol, pretty much goes without saying!) Using that inspiration, I'm recommitting to studying the craft, pulling out my favorites and redigesting the ideas, suggestions, and bits of inspiration that jumpstarted me in the first place.

Here are a few of my faves:

Plot and Structure, by James Scott Bell--love his easy style and practical information. Also enjoying his The Art of War for Writers.

Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass--stakes, Stakes, STAKES. Also good for developing your premise and big ideas.

But far and away, my all-time favorite writing book is Write Away, by Elizabeth George. There's something about the way she digs into her research, and the way she records her writing journey for each book, that makes her world seem so authentic on the page. This is a great book to curl up with and internalize the wisdom imparted by a long time successful author.

What is your all-time favorite craft book, and more importantly, why?

Friday, March 19, 2010

A SAD DAY FOR BOOKS!

This winter has been especially brutal, and I have a feeling we aren't quite done. One of the saddest things that happened was when the roof of the used bookstore collapsed (never mind the fact that I had a credit there!)





So we were driving by yesterday, and it looks like a war zone. The whole front wall is off now, and if you look super close you can see the packed out bookshelves....and the dozer ready to run it all down. ARGH! Couldn't they send someone in with a hardhat to save the books?! As I lamented, my daughter said, "Eh, don't worry. It's only the sci-fi section." {{Lol, she said it, not me. All you sci-fi fans out there please do not throw tomatoes!}}

I suppose most books do have a shelf life (pun intended) and they all must end up somewhere. While I like to keep as many as I can, I have to part with a few dozen every year, by giving them to a good home with an avid reader who will derive as much pleasure as I.

My question for you: what do you do with books when you are finished? Do you have a lavish library and can keep them all? Donate? Friends?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SLEEP LOST=WORD COUNT GAINED


Last weekend I had a brilliant idea--okay, maybe not really my own idea, but one I borrowed from a friend who works all night, three times a week. I wondered what would happen if I did that? You know, if I stayed up into the wee hours, I wouldn't have to feel guilty about whatever else I'm neglecting. (Of course, there's a price to pay in the morning, but that's what heavily caffeinated beverages are for!)


So last night I did it. Packed up my laptop, notebook, index cards, highlighters, pens, and sticky notes, and headed to Village Inn. Talk about good timing--they'd just installed wi-fi that day! Somewhere amidst the pie and endless coffee, I pounded out nearly 2,000 words. I'd have done more, but there was no outlet :( A battery only lasts so long (about the same amount of time as a pot of coffee.)

If I can find a place that stays open past 10:00, has wi-fi AND outlets, this will be the golden idea of the year.


Here's my question for you: what has been the biggest accomodation you've made for your writing or (insert passion here)??? What have you given up, changed, or swapped out in order to pursue your goal?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

DEAD RECKONING

Action, adventure, and romance are all rolled into one fantastic debut by Ronie Kendig. Not only is the writing tight and engaging, but the story draws you in from the moment you open the book, not letting you go until you turn the final page with a satisfied grin. Read chapter one for yourself and see! What's even more exciting is that Ronie is a sweet friend, fellow ACFW member, and an awesome person, and I'm really excited to see where she goes from here.

Congratulations, Ronie!

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:


Dead Reckoning

Abingdon Press (March 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Camy Tang and Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ronie Kendig has a BS in Psychology and is a wife, mother of four, and avid writer. In addition to speaking engagements, Ronie volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers and contributes monthly to the highly acclaimed Novel Journey blog, and is a columnist for the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. Her espionage thriller, Dead Reckoning, releases March 01, 2010 through Abingdon Press and the first in a military thriller series, Nightshade, will release July 2010 from Barbour Publishing. Ronie can be found online at or at Facebook.

Visit the author's website.
Visit the author's Facebook.



Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 142670058X
ISBN-13: 978-1426700583

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Mumbai Harbor, India

Shafts of yellow light pierced the blue-green waters, silhouetting the dive rig that hovered on the surface of the Arabian Sea. Shiloh Blake stopped and watched a wrasse scuttle past, its tiny fins working hard to ferry the brightly striped fish to safety.

Clad in her wetsuit, Shiloh squinted through her goggles and tucked the underwater camera into her leg pocket. Gripping a small stone artifact in her gloved hand, she propelled herself toward the surface. Ten meters and she would reveal her historic discovery to long-time rival Mikhail Drovosky.

Shiloh smiled. The guy would go ballistic. Score one for the girls. Between her and her new dive partner Edie Valliant, they had surged ahead in finds. Not that this was a competition. Not technically. But everyone with the University of California-San Diego dig team knew it was make or break time.

Shiloh broke the surface. As the warm sun bathed her face, she slid off her mask and tugged out her air regulator before hauling herself onto the iron dive flat. She squeezed the saltwater from her hair, the auburn glints catching in the sunlight. Her long auburn hair glowed in the sunlight.

“What did you find?” Khalid Khan knelt next to her.

With a smirk, she peeked at her best friend. Her own excitement was mirrored in his dark eyes. Then she noticed Edie’s absence.

“Where’d she go this time? And Dr. Kuntz?”

“She wasn’t feeling well.”

“More like she had another date.” Irritation seeped through her pores like the hot sun, boiling her to frustration. She couldn’t believe her dive partner kept cutting digs to flirt with locals.

Khalid reached over to remove her dive tanks.

With a hand held up, she shifted away. “No, I’m going back down.”

Footsteps thudded on the deck. “It’s my turn.” Mikhail’s glower fanned her competitive streak.

“Sorry.” Shiloh grinned. “Not for another ten minutes. You’re not going to stop me from qualifying for the Pacific Rim Challenge.” She nearly sighed, thinking about racking up enough dive hours for the deep-sea assignment—her dream.

On his haunches, Khalid swiveled toward her, cutting off her view of Mikhail. “What’d you find?” he whispered. Damp from his last dive, Khalid’s jet black hair hung into his face. “Please tell me you aren’t playing games.”

From a pouch hanging at her waist, she produced the lamp. “This for starters.”

He took the piece and traced the contours. “Soapstone.” His gaze darted back to hers. “You mapped it on the grid, right? And photographed it?”

Any first-year grad student would know to take a picture to verify its location and record it on the mapped grid of the site. “Of course.” She patted the camera in the pouch.

Not so many years ago a sunken city had been found in the area. Would she find another? Her heart thumped at the prospect. Tools. She would need better tools to safely remove the vase waiting at the bottom of the sea. Shiloh stood and hurried to the chest to remove an air pipe to suction the silt and sediment away and grabbed an airlift bag. As she plotted how to excavate the piece, she tucked the tools into holsters strapped around her legs and waist.

“I’m coming down there whether you’re done or not.” Mikhail bumped his shoulder against hers and pursed his lips. “If you find it in my time, I get to log it.”

Eyebrow quirked, she swept around him to the stern and sat on the ledge.

“I mean it, Blake!” Mikhail’s face reddened.

She slipped the regulator back in her mouth, nearly smiling. With a thumbs-up to Khalid, she nudged herself into the water. Glee rippled through her. The look of incredulity on Mikhail’s mug buoyed her spirits. Finding the lamp had been exhilarating, but one-upmanship had its own thrill. Besides, how many divers worked this dig in the last year? Like them, she found a piece of history. Divers and researchers had scoured this area and other sites along the coast of India.

Dr. Kuntz would have insisted on diving with her if not for ferrying Edie around Mumbai. Irritation at her new dive partner swelled. Why they had ever agreed to take on that useless woman, she’d never know. How could partying compare with the discovery of the past?

Although the silt and sand shrouded the lip of the vase, Shiloh spotted its outline easily where she had marked the place with a flag. She lifted the red vinyl square from the sandy floor and worked quickly, refusing to relinquish this relic to the overblown ego of Mikhail Drovosky. He’d beaten her out of top honors for her bachelor’s degree, relegating her to magna cum laude, lessening her scholarship. Enough was enough.

Why hadn’t anyone else found this vase? As she brushed away the sediment, confusion drifted through her like the cool waters. A spot in the clay smeared. Her heart rapid fired. Had she ruined the relic? Yet something . . . Shiloh stilled, staring in disbelief. What on earth?

She rubbed the piece. Metal gleamed beneath the clay. The lip and handle floated away. This wasn’t ancient pottery. She turned it over in her hand. What was it? It almost reminded her of a thermos. About eighteen inches long, the cylinder’s weight surprised her. What was it doing here, buried like treasure? Just as she freed the object, her white watch face flashed, snapping her attention to the competition. Time was up.

Joy ebbed like the tide. Whatever this thing was, she wouldn’t leave it down here for Mikhail. Holding the bag open, she tried to ease in the metal tube. The piece teetered on the edge, nearly falling out, so she slipped it under her arm and started toward the surface. Light again directed her to the rig. Suddenly, thrashing ripples fractured the luminescent water, stirring particulates beneath the wake of a powerful motor.

A speedboat? Why were they so close to the dive area? Didn’t they see the warning beacon, the one that announced divers below? What kind of idiot would put someone’s life in danger for a thrill ride?

A torrent of waves rattled her, threatening her grip on the vase. What . . .? A half-dozen bicolor parrotfish shot past. Shiloh paused, watching their incredible color—like a psychedelic underwater show.

Thwat. Thwat.

A sound vibrated against her chest. She searched for the source but found nothing.

She continued upward, and then someone dropped into the water. Could Mikhail not wait? Sticking to the schedule ensured everyone’s safety. He wasn’t supposed to enter the water until she climbed out. He was in such a hurry to win that he would risk injury to her and anyone who got in his way. She’d throttle him. Only, it wasn’t Mikhail.

Khalid!

A plume of red swirled around his dark form like some freakish science experiment. Blood? Was he bleeding? Her heart skipped a beat—he wasn’t swimming.

Shiloh launched toward him as adrenaline spiraled through her. She struggled to breathe, threatening the nitrox mixture in her tank. Why wasn’t he swimming? He’d drown if it he didn’t paddle back up.

She pushed into his path, and he thudded against her. Hooking her arm under his, she aimed toward the surface, scissoring her legs.

A shadow loomed over the water. Another body plunged toward her, sinking deep and fast. Mikhail’s open, unseeing eyes stared back at her, a shocked expression plastered on his face. Reminding her of an Egyptian plague, the water turned red.

Watery tubes pursued him. Bullets!

What’s happening?

Khalid. He needed oxygen. She wrangled him toward her so she could share her air. The metal cylinder fumbled from her grasp and sunk back into the oblivion where she’d found it. Whatever the thing was, it couldn’t be worth a life—especially not her best friend’s. She removed her air regulator and stuffed it into his mouth.

Khalid jerked. Pain hooded his eyes. His dark brows knitted as he gazed at her. He gripped his side and grimaced. That’s when she saw the source of the red plumes. He’d been shot too. Her gaze flew to the rig. What about the captain and his son?

Khalid caught her arm. With a firm shake of his head, he pointed away from the rig. Escape.

Shiloh linked her harness to his and swam from the rig. Uncertain where they could find safety if someone was determined to kill them, she barreled away from the nightmare. If she could make it to an island—she remembered seeing a small one in the east—they might be safe. Khalid tried to pump his legs, but not successfully. At least he hadn’t passed out. Or died.

Her stomach seized. No way would she let Khalid Khan die. Shiloh wagged her fins faster, thrusting both of them farther from the boat. Seconds lengthened, stretching into what felt like hours. With each stroke, her limbs grew heavier, dragging her down to the ocean floor. She pushed upward, refusing to become a victim.

Suddenly, she was drawn backward, pulled out to sea by the strong natural current hugging the Indian coast. Battling the forces of nature, she did her best to keep herself and Khalid aimed in the right direction. Her chest burned from oxygen deprivation.

The mouthpiece appeared before her. Surprised at Khalid’s attentiveness, she stuffed it in her mouth and inhaled deeply, savoring the strength it gave her. Another twenty meters, and the water collided with mangroves. Shiloh struggled around the roots to a small, shallow inlet. On her knees, she tore out the regulator, dragging Khalid as she clawed her way to safety. He attempted to crawl, but collapsed. She yanked off her goggles and released their d-rings.

Khalid coughed, gagged, and vomited sea water.

Warm sand mired Shiloh’s trembling limbs as she laid there, panting and gasping. The swim had been harder and much longer than she’d expected. They both could have drowned.

She squeezed her eyes shut. Thoughts of what was lost . . . Mikhail! Was he truly dead? Who would attack grad students on a dig? Why?

Shiloh pressed her hand to her forehead, tiny grains of sand digging into her flesh. She rubbed her temples and tried to make sense of the chaos.

“What happened back there, Khalid?” She flipped onto her back, the sun blazing against her pounding skull. “Who was it? Did you see?”

Silence.

Shifting, she rolled her head to peek at him. He wasn’t moving. On all fours, Shiloh scrambled and shook him.

“Khalid!” His gray wetsuit glistened red from the blood that poured from his side. She clamped a hand over his wound, the warmth sickening. “Khalid, talk to me.”

He groaned.

“No!” Fire flashed through her. “You aren’t chickening out. Not now.” Again, she shook him, but this time he didn’t respond. “Please!”

Shiloh examined his chest. Not breathing. With two fingers pressed to his neck, she tried to feel past the hammering of her own heart to detect his pulse. Nothing! She started compressions and breaths, counting between each to keep a steady rhythm. His blood stained her hands. While she pumped his chest, she took a cursory glance around the thick vegetation. It was so thick, she’d never know if someone stood five meters off.

They needed help—now! She activated the emergency beacon on her watch as she again searched—hoped—for help. Her heart caught when she spotted a “mechanical giraffe” staggering in the shifting fog. Jawahar Dweep.

“Butcher Island,” she mumbled, as she tried to revive her friend. The isolated spot only offered isolation and oil. No help. They were alone.

“At least we’re safe,” she said. But would Khalid die? “Don’t you dare!”

She pounded his chest. More blood dribbled from the wound that seemed too close to his lungs.

A rasp grated the air. His ribs rose.

“Khalid?”
He moaned.

Tears stung her eyes as she slumped next to him. “Khalid, stay with me. I’ve activated the beacon.”

His blue lips trembled against his chalky skin. “C-cold.”

She’d always admired his dark olive complexion, but the pallor coating his rugged face worried her. Would she ever see his dark eyes ignite when she made some snide, inappropriate remark? Who would help her through her episodes? She’d told only him about her rare disorder.

“We should move you closer to the rocks to stay warm until help arrives.” Shiloh once again hooked her arms under his and drew him to the side. Blood stained the sandy beach.

A wave rolled in, then out. Red streaks reached toward the warm waters. She nestled him against a large boulder and lay close to keep him warm.

“Stay with me, Khalid. No naps. This is the ultimate test, got it?” She looked to where the ocean kissed the horizon. Mumbai sparkled in the distance. So close, yet so far away it might as well be a million miles. She could only hope they would be found in time.

“You just wanted to kiss me,” Khalid mumbled.

Shiloh jerked toward him, frowning. “What?”
“CPR. I didn’t need it . . .” He coughed. “You just wanted to kiss me.”

With her hand pressed to his forehead, she smiled. “Ah. Just as I expected—delirious with fever.”

A half-cocked grin split his lips.

She tried to swallow. He had been her rock for the last four years. Despite the tight-knit relationship between their parents, Khalid and Shiloh had forged their own friendship in the fires of college life. They’d been inseparable since he came to America to study.

How long would it take Search and Rescue to locate her signal? What if the SAR team didn’t make it in time? If this were American waters, it would only be a matter of minutes, but in the Arabian Sea . . .

Shiloh’s head dropped to her chest. She had to believe everything would be fine. They’d be found, a doctor would tend Khalid’s wounds, he’d recover, and then they’d be off to the Pacific Rim Challenge. She had worked so hard for it. They both had. For the last two years, they had prodded each other toward their common goal. Their requisite dive hours were nearly complete. No, nobody would die, especially not Khalid.

Mikhail died. She clenched her eyes shut and blotted out the image of her rival slipping through the water, sinking lower and lower.

Biting her lip, she groped for something to refocus her attention. Naming the scientific classification for the sun star. Animalia. Echinodermata. Asteroidea. Spinulosida. Solasteridae. Solaster dawsoni.

“Miss . . . Amer . . . ca . . .” Khalid’s words, though broken, speared her heart.

She scooted closer. “I’m here. Be still, Khalid. They’re coming.”

“Marry me.”

“You dork.” She let out a shaky laugh as a shudder tore through her, threatening to unleash tears. Lips pulled taut, she forced herself to remain calm and look at him. “Rest.”

His fingers twitched. She lifted his hand and cradled it in hers.

A gurgling noise bubbled up his throat. “I love . . .”

“No, shh.” He couldn’t love her. Not her.

“Shil . . .”

When he didn’t finish, she knitted her brow. His eyes closed, and his mouth remained open.

“Khalid?”

His arm went slack.

“Khalid!” Tears blurred her vision, making it impossible to see if he was breathing.

A horn blared in the distance. She whipped around and spotted the massive white Indian Coast Guard rig racing toward them with its lights swirling.

* * *

Reece Jaxon straightened and watched the woman without watching. Seeing without being seen. She batted her auburn hair, thick and tangled with ocean water, away from her face. Hiding in plain sight on the rescue boat, he tracked her movement with ease. She hadn’t noticed him yet, even though he was less than a dozen feet away.

Wrapped in a gray thermal blanket Shiloh Blake stared at the injured Pakistani on the medical stretcher as the local authorities churned across the water toward Mumbai. She hadn’t left the man’s side since the rescue.

Another man in his early fifties hooked an arm around her shoulders and drew her close. Dr. Kuntz, according to the file, was fifty-three. Married. Three grown children. An unfaithful wife and a divorce later he’d partnered with a local Indian museum to arrange underwater excavations with U.C. San Diego. Something about the man didn’t sit right with Reece.

“Noor Hospital,” Dr. Kuntz insisted to the Coast Guard captain.

An hour earlier Kuntz had stormed into the Coast Guard station and interrupted Reece’s conversation with the officer. Surprised at the man’s intrusion, Reece feigned disinterest, although Kuntz’s story corroborated what Reece had relayed to the authorities after witnessing the attack. Then? The emergency transponder signal erupted.

Reece noticed Shiloh stiffen under the professor’s protective touch. Kuntz spoke soothingly to her, reassuring her that Noor Hospital would give Khalid the best care. Bent to shield his face, Reece tightened the laces on his boots while memorizing everything that took place in the boat’s small cabin. Now if he had judged her character right, in about twenty seconds she’d pull away from Kuntz.

Shiloh took a step out of the man’s reach.

Bingo.

“I need something to drink.” Reece watched her cross through the hatch. “They said they had coffee up front.”

Dr. Kuntz laughed, his arms outstretched. “But you don’t drink coffee.”

“It’s chilly,” she called without looking back.

Chilly. Interesting. It was a mild sixty-five degrees on the Arabian Sea, and she was chilly.

Shiloh Blake strode straight toward him with her head held high. Calm. Relaxed. Confident.

Come on, look at me, Reece silently dared her.

Blue-grey eyes collided with his. He scratched his beard, wishing he had more than two weeks’ growth, but it was enough to conceal his identity. With an acknowledging nod, he stayed in position. Now if she would only hold his gaze.

Oh, what he wouldn’t give to smile his pleasure as she stared at him. She only tore her eyes from his when it became impractical not to. Reece guessed she would never show any weakness.

Atta, girl.

Although he’d already skimmed the preliminary data on the American students, Shiloh’s impressive character made him want to know more. She had a higher confidence level than most of the people he had monitored in the region. What gave her that unshakable demeanor? Reece determined to get a DNA sample and run her through the system. Was she working undercover?

As the ship bumped Victoria dock, he leaped off and lassoed the pylons. Heavy thuds sounded against the weathered planks as the emergency crew transferred the young woman and her Pakistani friend to a waiting ambulance. Dr. Kuntz doted on her once again, but with no room in the narrow mobile unit, the professor was relegated to a rickshaw.

Shiloh huddled on a small bench in the ambulance, her glassy gaze locked on her friend as the emergency personnel worked on him. Just as the doors swung closed, she glanced toward Reece. A load of steel partially blocked his line of sight. Yet, despite the stenciling on the rear window, he saw her tilt her chin just enough to look for him over the emblem. The ambulance bumped over the sandy path, and then settled on PD Mello Road. Sirens wailed. Lights whirled.

Reece strolled down the boardwalk toward the beach, retrieving the cell from his pocket. He hit autodial. Having to report one American dead was bad enough. But having to tell Ryan Nielsen that another sat neck deep in an ocean of chaos—

“We’ve got trouble.”

What was Shiloh Blake doing at a nuclear arms dead drop?

Monday, March 15, 2010

CRY ME A RIVER

This weekend a friend and I were texting, and the subject of sensitivity came up. I've already recently admitted to you guys that I'm a crier, so it naturally follows that I'm quite sensitive, perhaps moreso than your average bear. My friend, also a writer, admitted that she is sensitive too.

Could it be true that most creative types are more deeply sensitive? Considering how much brutal rejection and criticism exists in the writing world, or in any world where you expose your soul for everyone to see, it presents an interesting paradox.

Prior to becoming a writer, I did door-to-door sales. Quit laughing! I also did tons of phone calls and was required to make 25 contacts per day. Talk about learning to handle rejection. The thing I learned that stands out most is that rejection really isn't personal. It's not about me. I think God was preparing me for what was to come. Still, no matter how freakishly thick my skin grew to be, the rejection I face now as a writer is much more personal than when I was selling stocks and bonds. But if I'd never had that experience, I imagine I'd have only lasted through the first few rejections from agents and editors before chucking the whole gig.

I'm curious whether or not you fall into the "deeply sensitive" camp, and maybe a bit of how you handle the rejection/criticism that is likely part of your journey as a creative type.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Once in a Blue Moon


B&H Books (March 1, 2010)


by


Leanna Ellis






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Leanna's sister recommended that she write, since she ‘wrote in her journal all the time.’ The idea took root and began to grow. So after five years of teaching, she quit and started writing, with no clue about the book business. Ignorance is bliss. If she’d known the odds against her, she might not have ever started writing.



For about three years, she wrote with a collaborator, but because she had so many ideas she began to write more stories on her own. She suffered numerous rejections. Deservedly so. But she was growing as a writer and learning. She went to as many conferences as she could manage. During that time, she met her future husband, fell in love and became engaged. She also began to final in contests and then actually began to win! The contests helped her get noticed by editors and agents. In March, the year Braveheart won the Best Picture Oscar, Victor/Victoria opened on Broadway, she sold her first book. It was her Cinderella year. She sold her book, got married and won RWA’s Golden Heart Award in Hawaii.



She wrote six books between her first baby’s birth and when the second baby turned one. Then she hit a wall. Not literally. But creatively. It’s not that she didn’t have any ideas, but her ideas didn’t fit the romance market. These new characters, random and weird as they were, began to take over the part of her brain that wasn’t domesticated. These stories were about all types of women, and so she began to let her writing grow in new and different ways.



Leanna Ellis sold more than 1.3 million romantic novels writing as Leanna Wilson, winning a Readers’ Choice award and the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award for her work. Elvis Takes a Back Seat is the first book published under her married name, marking a new creative direction in her writing. Like Francine Rivers before her, Leanna has left behind a successful career as an author of secular romances to write novels of faith that glorify God. A former schoolteacher, Leanna is now a homeschool mom and lives with her husband and children in Keller, Texas.







ABOUT THE BOOK



Bryn Seymour was nine years old when her mother died under mysterious circumstances on the same day Apollo 11 made its historic lunar landing. Forty years later—divorced, working as an obituary writer, and duly cynical—she meets Howard, a conspiracy theorist who knew her mom and believes a small Texas town may hold clues to what really fueled her demise. Seeking closure, Bryn goes along for this men-in-black ride. But upon meeting Howard’s son Sam, an outspoken Christian, she can’t decide whose beliefs are more pie-in-the-sky.



The gravity of life has pulled Bryn down for decades. But a perfect love could be her first step to soaring. It only happens once in a blue moon.



If you would like to read the first chapter of Once in a Blue Moon, go HERE



Watch the book trailer:



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WAITING FOR THE HARVEST

Let's face it, I'm no theologian, but occasionally a thought lands on me and I have to run with it. The other day I was doing something writerly that had nothing to do with my personal word count. In that moment, I felt a little tug telling me that I was spending the day sowing.


Be not deceived; God is not mocked:
for whatsoever a man soweth,
that shall he also reap.
~Galatians 6:7~

In the above verse, the context is about sowing to the sin nature or sowing to the spirit. But could it also apply to other areas of life? What about sowing into your dream?

We all enjoy "personal sowing," such as reading books about writing, going to conferences, getting in our word count (or whatever is the specific case for my non-writer friends), but sowing beyond ourselves (myself) is on my heart lately. Ideas off the top of my head: volunteering for an organization, critting for a friend, judging a contest, encouraging someone to go further with their God-given talents, acting as a mentor.

If the above verse is true (and I believe it is) then we can expect a harvest. Now, I'm not silly enough to think that the harvest will be the exact thing that I'm wanting, but I do know with certainty that God will send a bumper crop of something good. Prepare ye the silo!

Are you in a season of sowing? Are you enjoying a bumper crop? A little of both?

Monday, March 08, 2010

RANDOM CHAOS ALERT

As if the last month wasn't sad/weird enough....

Wednesday afternoon I started getting pains in my stomach. No biggie, one of the kids was sick earlier in the week, so I naively assumed I was getting the grippers and promptly armed myself with Immodium.

Then it progressed. The pain moved lower and intensified. By 11 pm it centered in my lower right abdomen. The moment dear hubby walked in the door, I made him take me to the ER, where we spent the better part of the night confirming that I did, indeed, have appendicitis.

The next afternoon I had the operation, and Friday night they released me.

Sigh. Now I move like an inchworm, and live life in slow motion. So not fun, but definitely a compassion builder.

No exercise for 6 weeks. SIX WEEKS! Do you know how BIG I'll BE in SIX WEEKS?!?!?!

Anyhoo, prayers appreciated. Especially since we have the Oh-Crap-I-Hope-Nothing-Happens high deductible insurance plan. I am anxious to see how God works this out for the good--not that I am doubting He will--but man, I'd love to have a moment of sunshine, or at least something to look forward to.

In the meantime, I shall enjoy leisurely sipping coffee in the morning (instead of rushing to the gym), having hubby help me with the grocery shopping (lest I bust a stitch loading the heavies), and mostly milking it for all. it's. worth.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

NEVER A WASTE

Anyone devoted to their art, whether writers or painters or musicians, knows how much time it takes to explore and develop their craft. Many of us are looking for ways to move faster, work smarter, and generally squeeze twenty-five hours out of twenty-four.

For me, guilt often comes into play, knowing there are giant time suckers that I could eliminate--leisurely showers, television, reading, and...uh...crossword puzzles ;-) Of course, no one wants to live a life void of all the enjoyable parts in a quest for (fill-in-the-blank.)

So today I decided to make my guilt-free list. The top 3 ENJOYABLE things I know in my heart are the best use of those precious minutes:

PRAYING is never a waste of time
HOLDING MY KIDS is never a waste of time
LISTENING TO MY HUBBY is never a waste of time

While I'd love to include writing on this list, I'm not there yet. Probably because I'm still at a stage where my writing benefits only me {insert cheesy grin}. OH for the day where writing gets added to the list!

Here's my question for you. Fill in the blank:

____is NEVER a waste of time!

Monday, March 01, 2010

I'D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL....

....I'll have an L, please.

A line from one of my favorite episodes of Wheel of Fortune. My grams, a word master, had me watching the show from the time I was a tot. There'd be a puzzle with 5 or 6 words, 2 letters revealed, and she'd solve it. ((We had to convince her not to blurt it out to give the rest of us a fighting chance!))

I haven't watched Wheel in years, and now I have a new favorite word game: crossword puzzles. A few weeks ago I glanced at one and knew the clue right off. Well, you can't know a clue then walk away without filling it in. One word led to another, and before long I had half the squares filled. ((I'm just not brilliant enough to get all the answers without looking up a few!!))

It dawned on me that playing the crossword helped me with writing--it was better to believe that than to think I was wasting precious time. Coming up with synonyms, alternate meanings, and filling in the blanks made me stretch my brain in a few new directions. Words I hadn't thought of in years starting cropping up, and I had to reach for new meanings of old phrases. This can only help me as a writer :D Plus, I've heard that these types of exercises keep you mentally agile.

For the record, my grams also did crossword puzzles......in pen.

What word games do you love? If not word games, any unique games/exercises that boost your creativity?
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