Friday, December 29, 2006

FIRST Feature: Hell in a Briefcase, by Phil Little

HAPPY NEW YEAR! It is January 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour. (Click the button to join our alliance.) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:
Phil Little with Brad Whittington
and their book:
(A Matt Cooper Novel)


A short review:
Hell in a Briefcase takes the reader inside the fight against global terrorism in frightening detail. Matt Cooper, head of a security organization, works with the FBI and Homeland Security to discover where Jihadists have placed eleven briefcases that hold nuclear bombs intended to destroy American targets. In a race against time, Matt risks his life to apprehend the bad guys and save American citizens from destruction.

Will he survive the horrors he faces as well as be able to salvage damaged relationships he should've focused on years ago?

I think this book would interest espionage/international intrigue lovers. While I normally find myself in that category, this novel felt so slow that it barely held my attention. I was interested, but the action didn't move as fast as I would've liked. It seems there were paragraphs of "extras" that I skimmed in order to get back to the meat of the story. Others may not feel that way. Still, the characters were well drawn and the plot sufficiently complicated. Backstory and narrative could've killed it for me, but I persevered and ended up enjoying it.


Phil Little, president of West Coast Detectives and a recognized expert in counter-terrorism, provides bodyguards to the stars and runs a detective agency that has served ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, Paramount, MGM, and hundreds of others ( He draws on this experience in crafting the tightly wound plot of this international thriller. In addition to his duties as a security expert, Phil has also written Hostile Intent, Protecting Yourself from Terrorism and will soon be the subject of a television pilot. In the meantime, you can read more about Matt's adventures in his blog,

In addition, Phil is available for comment on all aspects of international terrorism, both at home and abroad, and he makes for an interesting and colorful guest. His expertise in the area of international issues combined with his personable on-camera style would make for a great interview on this hot topic. From Lebanese terror camps in the 1970’s to American airports in the months before 9/11, Phil Little has witnessed the terror threat up close and can share eye-opening stories and information that all Americans should know.


Marjeyoun, Lebanon.

Thursday, 21 November 2002. 01:30.

A full moon. A glow seemed to rise from the sand, allowing them to drive with their headlights off. The five Jeeps kept to 40 kph on the dark road that wound southward between hills and wadis. In the third Jeep, Major Skaff allowed himself the brief luxury of picking out Pegasus in the sharp winter sky before he compulsively scanned the rocky terrain for signs of Hezbollah fedayeen. He was leading this patrol to check out rumors of increased activity near Shaaba Farms, the disputed area where three Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped two years before.

The ridge road ran from the town of Marjeyoun down to Qlaia’a under the ominous gaze of Shqif Arnoun-the castle called “Beaufort” by the Crusaders-to the west. Christians and Muslims had fought for this ground for centuries, trading possession of the castle as their fortunes rose and fell. In the 1970’s the Palestinian Liberation Organization had used the strategic placement of the castle to shell civilian settlements in northern Israel.

That was when Skaff, then a young recruit of the Southern Lebanese Army, had been a driver in a similar convoy, shortly before the civil war broke out between Christians and Muslims in 1975. Traversing this very ridge on a mission, he had come under fire from the castle. His evasive driving had saved the convoy and drawn the attention of General Lahd.

The intervening thirty years had been a generation of unremitting war. Israel, tiring of mounting civilian casualties and the Lebanese government’s refusal to expel the terrorists, invaded southern Lebanon in 1982 and captured the castle. Eighteen years of occupation followed, during which Skaff had risen through the SLA ranks while working openly with the Israelis to keep the various Muslim factions at bay. When he had started, Hezbollah did not exist. Now the radical Muslim army controlled the south and dealt severely with the Christian resistance.

As the occupation had grown increasingly costly and casualties mounted, the pressure increased for Israel to withdraw. When the SLA collapsed in 2000, Israel destroyed what was left of the castle walls and pulled back behind the Blue Line specified by the UN. The SLA scattered. Thousands fled to Israel or went into hiding. Those who didn’t were imprisoned and tried as enemy collaborators. As Hezbollah gained control of the area, the anticipated slaughter of Christians didn’t materialize. But any SLA militiamen emboldened to return were also imprisoned.

As he scanned the distant ruins of the castle in the moonlight, Major Skaff reflected on change and constancy. Where PLO guns had once rained death on Israel and Lebanese Christians, now tourists snapped pictures and rushed home to post them on the Internet. And the same General Antoine Lahd who had brought him up in the ranks and fought beside him for decades had fled to Paris. Only a week ago he had opened a fancy restaurant in Tel Aviv called Byblos. It had a nice ocean view.

True, Lahd had a death sentence hanging over him for treason and war crimes, but so did Skaff. And so did many of the two thousand SLA in Lebanese prisons.

But some things had not changed. Southern Lebanon was just as dangerous for the men in these Jeeps as it had been when Skaff was driving instead of commanding.

Skaff was drawn from his reflections by a dark shape ahead. At the end of the ridge the road snaked through an outcropping of rock. He had passed through it many times, always with reluctance. This night he felt a peculiar sense of revulsion as he squinted at the misshapen lump of stone looming before him.

He nudged his driver and nodded toward the rocks. Hassan nodded back. He could feel it too. Skaff reached for the radio to signal the lead Jeep. A lifetime of guerrilla fighting had convinced him that such premonitions were not without merit. His transmission was brief, but they were already entering the outcropping when he put the radio down.

Five seconds later a rocket hit the grille of the lead Jeep. The explosion lit the rocks towering over them. He saw the silhouettes of two men blow out on either side of the vehicle, which was tossed onto the nose of the next Jeep. Hassan narrowly missed them, skidding left and stopping next to the driver of the lead Jeep, who was lying half off the road.

The two Jeeps behind slid sideways to a stop in the road as machine gun bursts echoed from beyond the lead Jeep. Skaff was exposed to the attack. He dove from his seat to the rear of the second Jeep, between two men already returning fire with an Uzi and an M-16.

He rolled to his feet and yelled to the two back Jeeps, motioning for them to form a double barricade with their vehicles, keeping the men covered both in the front and the rear in case the attackers attempted to sandwich them in the gap. Skaff turned back, confident that his men needed no further direction. This mission called for battle-hardened veterans, and he had personally selected the nineteen men who were with him now. Every man among them had proved himself in years of combat. Some even owed their life to his cool command in battle. Some had returned the favor multiple times.

Skaff scanned the forward battle to account for the remaining eleven men, his position shielded by the lead Jeep transfixed on the grille of the second. To the left, Hassan was pulling the driver of the first Jeep to safety. The other two men from Skaff’s Jeep were covering him with sporadic fire from their Uzis. Ahead, the driver of the second Jeep was placing a case of grenades handy to his partner, who had fitted his M-16 with a grenade launcher and was set up in the backseat. Skaff was standing beside the other two passengers in the second Jeep. That left the three passengers from the lead Jeep.

He spotted Saif on the right. He had been thrown clear onto the sand without apparent injury. He was crouched behind a boulder, occasionally returning fire with his Desert Eagle .50-caliber side arm. Failing to sight the other two, he shouted to the driver, who had acquired an Uzi.

“Rafik? Sayyed?”

He nodded forward. Skaff crawled over the middle of the jeep to the hood. Sayyed was wedged between the lead Jeep and the grille of the second Jeep, most likely dead. Rafik was lying on the hood of the second Jeep. Skaff checked for a pulse. Nothing. He closed Rafik’s eyes and whispered a short prayer. Skaff couldn’t play favorites with his men, but this loss was harder than any other would have been. At nineteen, Rafik had already spent four years with Skaff, rarely more than fifty yards from his side. Four years of relentless, driven hate. Skaff had been Rafik’s ticket for revenge. Perhaps now he had found the peace revenge had not been able to bring him.

Skaff was crawling back to get a weapon when the second rocket hit the bottom of the lead Jeep. The gas tank exploded, sending most of the shrapnel back toward the attackers. The force of the blast threw the second Jeep back five feet, knocking over the two shooters behind. The grenade launcher and the man with it fell into the front seat. The driver was standing to the side. He returned fire with the Uzi.

Skaff helped reposition the grenade launcher and crawled out of the Jeep. The two in back were already firing again. He scanned the area and then dove toward the two Jeeps in the rear. Of the eight men between the jeeps, one had taken a round in the right shoulder but was still firing left-handed, propped against a door. Three were facing the rear but indicated they hadn’t seen any action, yet. Two were covering the walls on either side with M-16s, but also hadn’t seen action. The final two had grenade launchers on their M-16s. They waited until they saw several volleys of tracer bullets originating from a single location. Then they fired three seconds apart at the source. The machine gun fire stopped. Skaff slapped them on the back. Perhaps they would get out of this thing alive.

Then a rocket hit Skaff’s Jeep. Hassan was behind a curtain of stone, firing with an Uzi, having propped the injured driver in a cleft in the rock. But the other two were using the Jeep for cover. One tumbled backward, clear of the Jeep. The other was knocked down as the Jeep rolled over, pinning his leg under it. Skaff ran through a volley of automatic weapons fire and pulled the first man to his feet. They raced to the Jeep, joined by Hassan, and rocked it back over. Then they dragged the injured man to safety next to the injured driver.

Skaff felt a shudder of unease ripple through the adrenaline-laced focus that always came over him in combat. If this kept up, the whole team would be shredded before they had used half their ammo. He grabbed Hassan’s arm and yelled into his ear over the din.

“We have to take out that rocket launcher or we don’t get out of here. Take those three and circle around.” Hassan nodded and stepped away but Skaff grabbed his arm. “Take a radio.”

He let go, and Hassan ran to the rear while the others laid down covering fire. Skaff used the opportunity to race to the front two Jeeps and get the four there away from the vehicles and behind the cover of the rocks. As they ran for cover, another rocket hit the top of the lead Jeep, sending fragments of the grille and fenders flying in all directions. Skaff ran through the explosion back to the rock curtain. When he fell against a boulder the injured man pointed at Skaff’s leg. He looked down and saw that his left trouser leg was slashed in three places. Blood was seeping down to his boots. He looked around to see how the others had fared.

Saif seemed to have been hit in the arm by something. He was now firing the Eagle while holding his upper arm with the other hand. The other four seemed to have escaped unscathed. Skaff’s radio had not survived the rocket. He nodded to the man next to him, who wielded an Uzi while he made it to the two back Jeeps, getting an Uzi and a radio. He turned it up all the way and slung it over his shoulder. Then he began firing at the source of tracers beyond the rubble of the Jeeps.

Looking for some encouragement, Skaff probed his memory. In almost three decades of fighting, he didn’t recall anything quite as dire as the current circumstance. He had two confirmed dead, one unconscious, three wounded but still firing. Almost a third of the force. The numbers were bound to increase as long as that rocket launcher was working. His calculations were interrupted by Hassan’s voice squawking through the pandemonium.

“We got the rocket launcher, but I think they have another on the left. And now we’re pinned down, so we’re going nowhere.”

The last word was drowned out by a rocket blast on the rock curtain above the injured men. Skaff doubted he could get a team around the other side. Even if he did, the enemy would be expecting them. No way around. No way through. He scanned the sheer rock walls on either side. No way over. The fedayeen had chosen their positions well and appeared to have ample men, weapons, and ammo. It seemed likely that most of this team would share the fate of Rafik and Sayyed. Probably all. The thought sickened Skaff, turning the adrenaline in his veins to bile in his throat.

There was one last hope, but it might be too late. He selected another frequency on the radio and shouted over the gunfire, “Lehafil Levanon Sanctzia. Lehafil Levanon Sanctzia. (Activate Lebanon Sanction.)”

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Announcing: The winner!

Pardon my tardiness. Today was...hectic. My darling husband has drawn a name from the hat, however, and we have our winner for a copy of The Nativity Story:

*drum roll*

Congratulations, Grace. I'll be e-mailing you to get your snail mail addy. I hope you enjoy the book and have a blessed Christmas.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Win a free copy of The Nativity Story, by Angela Hunt!

Post a comment here by 8:00a.m. December 21st and I'll mail you your very own book!

My review of The Nativity Story will be featured in December's Afictionado, AFCW's e-zine. So look for it there. I do highly recommend the book--it is extremely well done.

Please visit the author's website here: and take a look at her blog entries for December 1-6 and 9th. She explains how the screenplay and book came to be.

Hopefully many of you have already seen the movie from which this book was written. There has been mixed press about it, but I felt it was historically accurate and quite moving as well. However, I will say that the book evoked more emotion in me than the movie did (I read it before I watched it), perhaps because I like to see things in my head. The movie was worth the watch in any case.

Angie Hunt is currently working on two projects--a nonfiction book for Mandisa from American Idol, and the second in her Fairlawn series. Her next book will be released summer 2007-- The Elevator, which looks like a gripping suspense novel. Can't wait!

Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Angie's book, The Nativity Story!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The latest and greatest...

I just devoured the latest not-yet-released novel by Ted Dekker, Skin. It doesn't come out until April 2007, so I won't go on and on about it, but yeah, it's worth the read.

More importantly, I'd like to focus on Ted's new movie based on his hit title Thr3e. It releases Friday, January 5th. You really won't want to miss this--it's a heart stopper. Please go out and support faith based movies and tell your friends about it, too. You can see a trailer here: Thr3e Movie Trailer

You can see the list of theaters near you here: Theater Finder

And here's the Thr3e website: Thr3e Website

Thanks and God bless,

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Q&A with Kimberly Stuart, author of Balancing Act

I'd like to take you away from my regularly scheduled suspense spotlight and feature a mom-lit book I just read. I'm glad this book was my first mom-lit, because it gave me a good taste for the genre. Kim wrote a superb story, rife with punny one-liners, mommy reality and a big dose of hope.

It has been so long since I've had a baby, I've forgotten what a pain *cough*, I mean, joy it was. Nor do I have a full-time job outside of the home. So while I can't really relate to the premise, I certainly enjoyed the easy writing style and abundant humor found here and recommend it to young moms.

Q&A with Kim Stuart:
What inspired you to write Balancing Act?

I was neck-deep in the throes of motherhood and found it could make me laugh until I made unfortunate snorting noises, cry until I needed to breathe into a paper bag, and hang my outgrown roots in forced humility, and all before nine a.m.

I wanted to write a story that would acknowledge both the chaos and the blessing, the euphoria and the nagging doubts involved in mothering a child.

More than anything, I wanted to write a story with authentic, achingly real characters who struggled with faith and morality as well as sleep schedules and diaper rash. I figured if I could imagine my friends becoming engaged with the story, I was on the right track.

Is it true you wrote this novel while pregnant? What was that like?

I was four months pregnant when I attended a writers’ conference and received some very positive feedback from an editor at NavPress. She encouraged me to send my manuscript to Nav’s fiction line when I got a chance.

My “manuscript” at that time was around three thousand words, the very rough beginning of Balancing Act. I found an expanding uterus to be like my own private motivational speech. It was a fixed deadline, so to speak, and I like deadlines. So each afternoon, while my two-year-old napped, I’d waddle over to my laptop and crank out my thousand words. God is good, I finished the book, and my water broke, in that order.

Experiencing mommy-hood for the second time, did you go back and make revisions?

My son, who just turned one, is very different from my daughter, who is now four. Mitchell wants me with him, wants to cuddle, and thinks I’m a rock star even with morning breath. Ana, however, is very independent, cuddles only when feverish, and minces no words regarding morning breath. So I feel like I’m revising all the time, trying to keep up with their very different needs and personalities. My most major revision, however, has been throwing out Neurotic Kim and going for a more laid-back approach out of necessity. Funny how four years of parenting does that to a girl.

Did you use true-life stories in your novel? Can you give us an example?

While Balancing Act is absolutely a work of fiction, there are threads of my own experience woven throughout. Nora, the baby in the book, is loosely patterned after my daughter, Ana. She gets to talking in the sequel, Bottom Line, set to release in May. I see a lot of Ana in that part of Nora’s story.

The protagonist, Heidi Elliott, certainly has my sense of humor. Like Heidi, I taught high school Spanish. Like Heidi, I identify with the tightrope walk of a woman living in this century. I know the chaos of working, mothering, wife-ing, and trying to be plain old me, for crying out loud. And like Heidi, I’ve had a certain amount of distrust for church-run women’s groups, always fearing they’ll make me quilt or something.

But I’ve assured my family that unlike what occurs in the book, there are no skanky dealings in my marriage, that I don’t know any well-endowed heiresses, and that none of my relatives are represented in the characters. Well, that last part isn’t entirely true, but you’ll have to wait to read my posthumous memoirs to get the full scoop.

How do you balance motherhood and writing?

It isn’t pretty, I’ll tell you that much. Far easier to make up a story about the balancing act than to actually do it well oneself. I’ve been known to type while my son drools on my big toe and my daughter screams the soundtrack to “Little Mermaid” in the background. This system does not seem to reap the most productive writing moments. So I have help. God has always turned out to be sufficient when I let Him. My mother, bless her, and my babysitter, Ashley, bless her too, help me out for a couple hours each day so I can write. My husband is a fantastic human being who assumes I can conquer the world and should. My friendships keep me above the surface just when I think I’ll sink.

And on grace-drenched days, there’s always naptime.

Author Bio: After teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language, Kimberly Stuart took a huge increase in pay to stay at home full time with her daughter, Ana. She lives in Des Moines, IA. While writing Balancing Act, Kimberly was pregnant with her second child.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

CFBA Spotlights: Never Ceese, by Sue Dent

Sue Dent was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and currently resides in Ridgeland. When not writing, Sue designs websites and works with digital photograpy.

Sue loves to hear from her fans through her website. In fact, the push from eager readers has already set the ball rolling, and she's hard at work on Forever Richard, the sequel.

In Never Ceese, Sue sets out to prove that faith and fun can live happily in the same story, and that vampire/werewolf fantasy can have a spiritual message too.

This is the debut spiritual fantasy novel of author Sue Dent. It is published by Journey Stone Creations. I have yet to read it, but have heard good things about it. Go check it out at the author's website:

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Stranded, by Lorena McCourtney

Ivy Malone is at it again. Her mutant curiosity gene is in full gear, and her LOL (little old lady) antics are more hilarious than ever. The author does not disappoint with this 4th book in the Ivy Malone Mystery series. In fact, it just may be her best yet. I thought I solved the case on page 79 only to find out I was at least partially mistaken at the end.

Fleeing from a prior dangerous situation, Ivy's camper breaks down in the mountains of Colorado. She is, as the title says, stranded until she can come up with the money for a new engine. While in the cozy town of Hello she discovers--you guessed it--another unsolved murder. She may as well snoop around a bit while she's there. Suspense mounts as she racks up suspects and motives. Will her mutant curiosity gene prove sufficient clear up Hello's unsolved murder?

I highly recommend this book for mystery lovers of any kind. Not overtly Christian, Ivy does share her faith in God, help people in need when possible, and pray. I like the non-preachy approach. There are still lessons to be learned and a whole lot of enjoyment along the way.

Lorena McCourtney's Website
An added note from Karri: I just received word that Lorena McCourtney has joined the ranks of ACFW. Welcome to the group, Lorena!