Monday, December 31, 2007

My One Word for 2008

At the end of last year, our pastor encouraged us to select one word (www.myoneword.org) that would be our motivation for godly living this year. I picked “surrender” for 2007. There were several things in life I gave up as a result of this. One being writing. I felt God’s call to do that. However, he has given me this thing back for some reason. Despite its serious toll on my mind and emotions, for some reason, God has not taken away the desire to craft a novel. He has only deepened it.

And so, wanting to complete a rough draft of about 75,000 words before I turn 40 on September 14th, I’m going to need a lot of my “one word.” It is “perseverance.” The driving force behind this word is the scripture found in James 1:4—“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

In my case, perseverance is needed to finish my work in progress. I know my tendency to get excited about something, obsess about it, and then let it fall by the wayside later. If I’m to achieve my goal, I need to stick to the plan and write about 307 words a day. Thank God it’s a leap year—I get an extra day. Woohoo!

So I guess I’m going to keep track of my progress here on my blog. That should help me stay on track and accountable to some degree. And I’ll enlist the help of some writing friends, of course. Writers need each other, no doubt.

So, sock it to me, 2008. I’m ready for you.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

(I know it's late!) On the 12th Day of Christmas...

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Love



God's Gift of Love

by Kathleen Y'Barbo


Love. It seems as though everyone these days is either in desperate avoidance of it, in the heart wrenching process of losing it, or in the giddy throes of finding it. Some have given up on it while others believe they will know it when they see it. All of us hope when it’s our turn, the love we get - and give - will be unconditional.

But can flawed humans really offer unconditional love?

Oh, we try. If you’re a parent you know the depth of love you felt the first moment you saw that precious baby of yours. Then there’s the feelings you carried up the aisle to join your beloved at the altar. Or perhaps love to you is counted by the nights spent at a parent’s bedside. The thread of love winds through each of these, and yet it is the rare parent, spouse, or child who would admit to having loved perfectly. We are human and sadly flawed, even when we act with the best of intentions.

There is only one unconditional love that never fails. Only one love that never turns a blind eye, says the wrong thing, or procrastinates rather than acts. The love of the Father, our Heavenly Father, is perfect in every way. Not only is His love unconditional, but He also loves us in spite of who we are and not for what we are. How wonderful to know that the God of the universe loves us.

Not just love in the way we see it, the stars-in-our-eyes crazy-about-my-baby love, but a depth of feeling exponentially more than anything our flawed but well intentioned hearts could imagine.

So today, when you’re reminded of that tiny baby, Jesus Christ the Creator-made-flesh, think of the love it took to accomplish this holy miracle of unconditional love. To put on the fingers and toes of an infant and come to us as Savior was the beginning of a love story that has no end.

Kathleen Y’Barbo

Monday, December 24, 2007

On the 11th Day of Christmas...

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

The Gift of An Uncluttered Christmas



God's Gift of An Uncluttered Christmas

by Cyndy Salzmann


It was enough to curl my toes. And a quick glance at the other mother’s in the audience told me I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

So what horrendous experience caused such a reaction from a room full of moms? A violent or sexually explicit movie? A challenge from Doctor Phil to “get real” and ‘fess up about our parenting faux pas? Or a pan of the audience spotlighting a really bad hair day?

Actually, the event that caused such a panic among this audience of mothers occurred during the Christmas program at my daughter’s school.

Things started innocently enough when the girls marched out onto the stage swinging colorful shopping bags. Of course, they were adorable and the apples of their mothers’ eyes. The trouble began when the girls opened their mouths and sang…

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

Scurry! Scurry! Scurry!

Worry! Worry! Worry!

Christmastime is here!


As I said, it was enough to curl my toes. Just the thought of all that hurrying, scurrying and worrying to prepare for Christmas gave me a full-blown a hot flash. No wonder depression peaks during the holidays. Faced with all that stress , I wouldn’t want to get out of bed either.

Once my hot flash ceded, I began to realize that this is just where Satan wants us – dreading the celebration of the most precious gifts to mankind – the birth of Jesus Christ. And frankly, it made my blood boil – almost bringing on another hot flash. I decided right then that he wasn’t going to get away with it.

We have a choice on how much hurrying, scurrying and worrying we do. And this year I hope you’ll make a commitment to join me in uncluttering your Christmas by jumping off the treadmill and keeping your eyes on the true reason for the season.

BTW- I have a tip sheet with practical ideas and advice to help you to simplify your holidays and focus on Jesus’ birth. Just contact me at cyndy@cyndysalzmann.com and I’ll email you a copy.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Attention, please! Chosen, by Ted Dekker reviewed



It has been 13 years since Thomas entered the world of the colored forest—a world filled with talking bats, green lakes, and a deadly skin disease.

Now, as Captain of the Forest Guard, Thomas defends Elyon’s people and their seven small forests against the encroachment of the desert-dwelling Horde.

The Guard’s numbers are small compared to the Horde army. Thomas looks for new recruits among young men and women a mere 16 and 17 years old. Four of them will become envied squad leaders, provided with rewards and responsibility.

After the four are named, Thomas sends them on a quest into the desert to prove their worth. But when they encounter enemy Scabs, they must escape or be killed.

Instead of finishing their mission and returning home, the group meets an unlikely ally who dispatches them to search for a new treasure—the Seven Books of History—books both powerful and dangerous that can change the course of history. Can the four comrades confront unthinkable evil and live to tell about it?

Dekker continues the story of Thomas’ forest world in his own unique fashion. Another hero is born within the pages of Chosen, one with character and courage to face fear and death with certainty that he is on the right side.

I will never get tired of Dekker’s style. He somehow keeps raising the bar and then one-upping himself with each new work.

The Lost Books series is sure to be a hit not only with younger readers (to which the stories are aimed) but to more seasoned ones like me. Book Two, Infidel, releases in January 2008.

There is so much to uncover inside this story and so much yet to come. Don’t just take my word for it. Take a deep dive into Elyon’s waters and enter a new world. You’ll be glad you did.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The 10th Day of Christmas...

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Memories



God's Gift of Memories

by Marlo Schalesky


Memory is a powerful thing. We hear a song from our high school days and we’re transported to sweaty school dances and blasting the radio in our first car. The smell of brownies baking takes us back to pigtails and ponies. We drive by the house we lived in as a kid and remember the swingset in the backyard and how that rotten kid from next door blew spitwads through the hole in the fence.

Ever gotten sick on a type of food? You’ll never want to have that again. And don’t even think about naming your child after that whiny little brat that sat behind you in the fourth grade, even if your spouse loves that name.

Memory. It’s why we treasure photos, display mementos, keep in touch with people from our past. It’s why God set up festivals for the ancient Israelites and told them to erect memorials at significant places in their history.

Memory. It’s why the sight of a stuffed stocking takes me back to those early mornings in my childhood when my brother and I would wake up before dawn, run to the fireplace, get our stockings, and race back to my parents’s bed. Mom was always ready. Dad pretended to complain. And together, with lots of giggling and the thrill of anticipation, we’d pull out the gifts from our stockings one by one. Simple things, boring really. Candy. A toothbrush. Some silly plastic toy. Things that would be used up or forgotten in just a few short weeks. And yet, opening stockings is my favorite Christmas memory from childhood.

Why? I think it’s because good memories are not necessarily made from the “big stuff.” Rather, they’re fashioned out of warmth and happiness and times together. They’re woven with laughter, colored with simple, plain joy. They come from times when you experience love.

So, this year, I’m thinking about the memories I’m making now, for my kids, and for myself. I don’t want those memories to be ones of a Mom who’s running around with too much to do and too little time to do it. I don’t want them to be of hustle, bustle, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cards, and gifts thrown under the tree. I don’t even want them to be of the cool stable-and-horse set that my girls will unwrap on Christmas morning. Or the cheap kid’s guitar for my oldest (age 7), or the new “ooo-ahh” (stuffed gorilla) for one of my 2-year-old twins.

Because the toys will break, get old, get lost, or they’ll outgrow them. But they won’t outgrow the happy memories of family times together. The memories of decorating Christmas cookies with laughter and joking – those won’t get old. The times we make a gingerbread house together, or sit down and watch the Grinch – those won’t break. The simple things make the best memories. Times when we’re together as a family, having fun, enjoying the traditions we’re building together.

So, that’s my goal this Christmas, to weave memories of peace, love, togetherness, because that’s the best gift I can think of to celebrate Jesus’ birth -- Memories that bring a smile to the face of children . . . and to the face of the King.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Unexpected Blessings



God's Gift of Unexpected Blessings

by Angela Hunt



The arrival of our daughter from South Korea wasn’t exactly unexpected—we’d spent years longing for her, and then months praying for that little baby’s safe arrival in our arms.

And as I look back over the experience, I can’t help thinking of Mary, who must have had such mixed feelings when she held the infant Jesus in her arms. Great joy, for the promised child had arrived. Great responsibility for the fragile life in her care. And great dread for the difficulties and sorrows that would arise.

As a young mother, I knew there would be tough times, and I haven’t been disappointed. But through bad times and good, through loving moments and less-than-loving moments, I can see the hand of God’s sovereignty molding me, my husband, and my children into the people he intends us to be.

Christmas shines brightest in the eyes of children. But it resonates most deeply in the hearts of those who love them.

Angela Hunt

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More cool devotionals...

The 6th and 7th days of Christmas together in one post! Enjoy.

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....


The Gift of Unconditional Acceptance

God's Gift of Unconditional Acceptance

by Lisa Samson


Clearly God Incarnate wasn't choosy. He wasn't born in a palace, but to a simple peasant woman bearing the stigma of a pregnancy conceived out of the bonds of matrimony. He wasn't even born in his own town, but endured a long ride to Bethlehem in his mother's womb only to be born in a stable among the livestock. Even after his ministry began he owned one robe and proclaimed himself homeless when He said, "Foxes have dens, birds have nest, but the Son of God has no place to lay His head."

If we used some TV preachers' standards today, Jesus clearly wasn't blessed by God. He didn't have the finest clothes, transportation or housing. Even most of His disciples weren't exactly candidates for a PhD. Clearly He must not have had enough faith if that's all He was getting from His Father!

But Christ isn't choosy and that is good news for us. For there isn't a single human being who can impress Him into shining His light of grace upon them. The stockbroker on Wall Street stands level with the illegal immigrant who picks strawberries. The evangelist in fine suits or sparkly dresses looks eye-to-eye with the busdriver. And the homeschool mom stands shoulder to shoulder with the prostitute. His love demands He looks above the good and the bad, and His arms are always open, ready to receive us when we are ready to receive Him. Sometimes we run back into His arms many times in one day and He doesn't care if we've showered or put on the latest fashions, He's only looking for a contrite heart. That's it. A heart that says, "I'm sorry."

This Christmastime, rest in the fact that you can't impress Christ. He doesn't care about our beautiful cookies or the fact that our trees look designer coordinated. He isn't impressed we ran around to ten different stores to find the perfect present for Aunt Sue. He just wants us to love Him, just as we are, for when we do, we incarnate Him in the here and now, and there's no telling what He'll do through us.




On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Uniqueness


God's Gift of Uniqueness

by Tosca Lee


I used to hate my name. “Tosca” was too unusual. “Moon,” my middle name, was just downright embarrassing. “Lee” was all right, though it still set me apart from the rest of the Caucasian kids in my school. In an era when Christy Brinkley graced the cover of every fashion magazine, I did not wish to accentuate my different-ness.

The name I really wanted was Marie--probably because others had it and that meant I could at least buy one of those door plates for my bedroom door or license plates for my bike, which was my litmus test. As it was, they sure didn’t have plates for kids named “Tosca.”

In junior high, my friends called me “Weird Tosca.” I didn’t like that so much.

These days I teach about talent in my work as a consultant. I talk about the strange, quirky things that not only set people apart, but have the potential to make them great. A friend said to me once, “Stars have points.” He’s right. And when we blunt our points, we lose the defining characteristics of our unique mark in and contribution to this world.

Opportunities work much the same. It’s the unique ones that seem to hold the greatest potential impact. When my main character, Clay, bumps up against the opportunity to hear the story of creation from the viewpoint of a Demon, he is terrified--intrigued, but terrified. And so he resists. While his reaction might be in keeping with any sane person’s, it’s also a human reaction to the unusual. But in this case, it’s the unusual that might just might save his soul.

How has God revealed to you your uniquness? And what, most importantly, is He telling you to do with it?

Weird Tosca


“You need to know something more about Elohim: he is the ultimate force of creativity. He is the author of diversity.”

--Lucian, Demon: A Memoir

Saturday, December 15, 2007

On the 5th Day of Christmas...

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....


The Gift of Imagination

God's Gift of Imagination

by Jack Cavanaugh



Christmas is a holiday for the imagination.
Angels and shepherds and wise men (oh my!),
Tyrants and taxes and stars in the sky!
No room for a bed
As tidings were spread
And the Father looked down from on high.

It’s no wonder the story of the nativity thrills our hearts year after year. It’s a wonderfully creative event orchestrated by a Deity who loves using His imagination. Take the temple priest’s robes for example. When the temple was first built God assembled all the skilled craftsmen and gave them instructions (Exodus 35:10). The craftsmen designing the priestly robes were told to adorn them with images of blue pomegranates (Exodus 39:24).

Blue?

There’s no such thing as a blue pomegranate! What was God thinking? If this kind of creativity were to catch on we could end up with Christmas cards with images of green angels, pink Christmas trees, and a plaid star over the manger!

If blue pomegranates bothers you…get over it! We have a wonderfully imaginative God who frequently colors outside the lines. Go, and do thou likewise.

Wishing you an imaginative Christmas season.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

On the 3rd Day of Christmas...

(Sorry I missed the 2nd day! Hope you enjoy this anyhow.)

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Restoration


God's Gift of Restoration

by Rachel Thoene

When I was but a wee child, I had many opportunities to travel with my dad’s folks, Nonnie and Papa, on trips to the coast with their house trailer.

My Nonnie was religious about packing sandwiches, fresh home made cookies and fruit for the trip. She wrapped the cookies and sandwiches in wax paper… this was before the days of juice boxes and Lunchables… and the whole picnic was packed neatly into one or two sturdy shoe boxes for the trip. A thermos of coffee for she and Papa and one of milk for me. The trip to the coast was only about two and a half hours long, but about half way there, Papa would slow the rig to a wide spot in the road and we would have a “picnic” together before continuing on our way to the ocean.

I was asked to contribute some thoughts on the gift of God’s restoration vs. life’s destination.

As I mulled a few thoughts over, it occurred to me that Nonnie’s “shoe box lunches” were a lot like God’s gift of restoration… Sure we had a destination in mind. It was exciting to get out of the valley and go spend time at the ocean with the sand and the waves and time all to myself with my Nonnie and Papa collecting shells… but the picnic lunch on the side of the road DURING the trip restored us and provided a brief respite in our journey.

Lately, my heart has been troubled and anxious as I have been caring for a friend with a very serious cancer. And I have found myself, head down, walking my campus during the day at work, talking to God about her condition and the outcome of all of this agony…And as I have conversed with Him on these strolls, I have picked up an amazing number of Pennies… every day… pennies… sometimes it’s only one or two, sometimes I’ve found 12 or more… but every day…pennies. And the curious thing is that every single one of those pennies says, “In God we Trust.” And I pick them up, put them in my pocket and say, “Thank you Lord. We are blessed today and we are whole, healthy, healed and restored…”

I believe that my friend is going to be well at the end of all of this, because God reminds me daily through those pennies to TRUST HIM”. And every penny draws me closer to Him so that I am focusing now on the moment and my conversation with Him, daily being restored in my faith and claiming her healing and I’m not any longer worrying about the destination or when we’re going to get there, because we have been given THIS MOMENT and in THIS Moment, I’m going to just pull my rig to the side of the road and have a picnic with Him in my heart.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On the first day of Christmas...

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Honesty


God's Gift of Honesty

by Mark Littleton

As a new Christian, I wasn’t really prepared for the stark truth about my previous life. Rummaging in my closet, I came across several shirts I had shop-lifted a couple of years before. I immediately remembered several items from the same heist.

Standing there trembling, I was unsure about what to do. I prayed, “God, what should I do about this?” It seemed the inner voice spoke immediately: “You need to return them to the store.”

I didn’t need to reflect much on it. I knew that was the right thing to do.

I packed up the items, drove to the nearby Bamberger’s store at the Cherry Hill Mall and found security. I explained what I’d done and offered to pay for the items. The guard smiled. “Every now and then we get one of these,” he said. “I’ll find out the prices and you can pay.”

A few days later, I got the call. Over sixty-five dollars in charges. In 1972 dollars, that was a lot of money. I sucked it up, though, wrote out a check and dropped it by. The guard thanked me for my integrity, saying, “I wish there were more like you out there. But shop-lifting costs us big-time. Just the same, I respect what you did.”

I went away feeling like I’d pleased God. There were other things I would return in the coming days, and it was always difficult. And costly. But the peace of mind and heart I received were all worth it. To say nothing of the witness to unbelievers, one of whom invited me to come visit him his family in Switzerland after I sent him back the stamps I’d stolen while babysitting his children years before.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Struggle Creek is finally here!



Mystery...

Generations ago, a Civil War skirmish was fought on the banks of Struggle Creek. Now, a different battle has come to the small Tennessee town, and a community's peace is shattered by fear.

Secrets...

The once trusting, close-knit community is unraveling. Could one of them be behind the deadly secret in the woods? Could one of them be a killer?

Faith...

Against the backdrop of fear and mistrust, the people of Struggle Creek are faced with a decision. Will they choose to trust in God and each other? Or will their bitterness and fear rob them of their innocence forever?


Peculiar People is an international Christian organization that creates unique fiction through group writing projects. Authors from all over the world work together to write one of a kind books that offer clean, Christian entertainment and spread the love of God.

I'm very proud to be part of this fantastic collaboration of authors from FaithWriters, founded by Amy Michelle Wiley. The meager beginnings of Peculiar People started with a chat room and an impromptu sci-fi screenplay. It has now matured into a group that has four different projects in the works. Struggle Creek is our first published project so far.

If you'd like to learn more about peculiar people, visit our website:
Peculiar People Books

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Auralia's Colors, by Jeffrey Overstreet




ABOUT THE BOOK:

As a baby, she was found in a footprint.

As a girl, she was raised by thieves in a wilderness where savages lurk.

As a young woman, she will risk her life to save the world with the only secret she knows.


When thieves find an abandoned child lying in a monster’s footprint, they have no idea that their wilderness discovery will change the course of history.

Cloaked in mystery, Auralia grows up among criminals outside the walls of House Abascar, where vicious beastmen lurk in shadow. There, she discovers an unsettling–and forbidden–talent for crafting colors that enchant all who behold them, including Abascar’s hard-hearted king, an exiled wizard, and a prince who keeps dangerous secrets.

Auralia’s gift opens doors from the palace to the dungeons, setting the stage for violent and miraculous change in the great houses of the Expanse.

Auralia’s Colors weaves literary fantasy together with poetic prose, a suspenseful plot, adrenaline-rush action, and unpredictable characters sure to enthrall ambitious imaginations.

Visit the Website especially created for the book, Auralia's Colors. On the site, you can read the first chapter and listen to Jeffrey's introduction of the book, plus a lot more!


PRAISE

"Film critic and author Overstreet (Through a Screen Darkly) offers a powerful myth for his first foray into fiction. Overstreet’s writing is precise and beautiful, and the story is masterfully told. Readers will be hungry for the next installment."
--Publishers Weekly


“Through word, image, and color Jeffrey Overstreet has crafted a work of art. From first to final page this original fantasy is sure to draw readers in. Auralia's Colors sparkles.”
-–Janet Lee Carey, award-winning author of The Beast of
Noor and Dragon's Keep


“Jeffrey Overstreet’s first fantasy, Auralia’s Colors, and its heroine’s cloak of wonders take their power from a vision of art that is auroral, looking to the return of beauty, and that intends to restore spirit and and mystery to the world. The book achieves its ends by the creation of a rich, complex universe and a series of dramatic, explosive events.”
-–Marly Youmans, author of Ingledove and The
Curse of the Raven Mocker





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jeffrey Overstreet lives in two worlds. By day, he writes about movies at LookingCloser.org and in notable publications like Christianity Today, Paste, and Image.

His adventures in cinema are chronicled in his book Through a Screen Darkly. By night, he composes new stories found in fictional worlds of his own. Living in Shoreline, Washington, with his wife, Anne, a poet, he is a senior staff writer for Response Magazine at Seattle Pacific University.

Auralia’s Colors is his first novel. He is now hard at work on many new stories, including three more strands of The Auralia Thread.

MY REVIEW:

I read a plethora of books. Some are fantastic. Some are mediocre. But most of them are unoriginal, either because they vaguely resemble a previously written work, or the plot is partially predictable. I won’t say that Auralia’s Colors is entirely unpredictable; however, the joy comes in soaking in every chapter, not in guessing the ending. In the joy and freedom and innocence portrayed in the writing comes the originality.

Overstreet has created a feudal-type world in which the kingdom of House Abascar is spotlighted. The king’s former wife (who ran away years ago and is presumed dead) forbade the commoners use of bright colors, to the detriment of all. Abascar has forgotten who it is and what it should become. And the only ones who seem to remember life before the forgetting are the Gatherers who have been banished from inside Abascar’s walls. They may be mistreated and overworked, but they have a young friend and ally who has brought meaning back to their lives.

Her name is Auralia. She doesn’t know why she is named thus, or where she came from, but she knows where she is going and what she is supposed to do. She takes organic material from the world: fur from large cats, remnants of leaves and grass, flowers, natural dye and weaves them into gifts for her friends. She and her beautiful trinkets and garments are beloved by the Gatherers. But they cannot tame her or make her stay in one place too long. She is ruled by no one.

On a day when Gatherers are able to appeal their banishment and gain access to the kingdom once more, Auralia joins the throng donned with her magnificent hand-woven cape of color. What will happen when she confronts the king and bedlam ensues on account of her? Will the kingdom welcome colors within its walls again or will someone pay the price for daring to break the law?

Again, I think this is a very unique novel, one from which most readers can find enjoyment and wonder. Don’t be surprised if you come away with questions and wonderings you haven’t pondered in a while. Auralia’s Colors tends to do that.

I eagerly await the next book in The Auralia Thread series, Cyndere’s Midnight.

My interview with Jeff will be featured soon at The Christian Suspense Zone

The Book Link

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CFBA this week: Try Dying, by James Scott Bell



ABOUT THE BOOK:

On a wet Tuesday morning in December, Ernesto Bonilla, twenty-eight, shot his twenty-three-year-old wife, Alejandra, in the backyard of their West 45th Street home in South Los Angeles. As Alejandra lay bleeding to death, Ernesto drove their Ford Explorer to the westbound Century Freeway connector where it crossed over the Harbor Freeway and pulled to a stop on the shoulder.

Bonilla stepped around the back of the SUV, ignoring the rain and the afternoon drivers on their way to LAX and the west side, placed the barrel of his .38 caliber pistol into his mouth, and fired.

His body fell over the shoulder and plunged one hundred feet, hitting the roof of a Toyota Camry heading northbound on the harbor Freeway. The impact crushed the roof of the Camry. The driver, Jacqueline Dwyer, twenty-seven, an elementary schoolteacher from Reseda, died at the scene.

This would have been simply another dark and strange coincidence, the sort of thing that shows up for a two-minute report on the local news--with live remote from the scene--and maybe gets a follow-up the next day. Eventually the story would go away, fading from the city's collective memory.

But this story did not go away. Not for me. Because Jacqueline Dwyer was the woman I was going to marry.

In Try Dying, this fast-paced thriller, lawyer Ty Buchanan must enter a world of evil to uncover the cause of his fiancee's death--even if hie has to kill for the truth.

"Bell is one of the best writers out there...he creates characters readers care about...a story worth telling."
~Library Review~




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

James Scott Bell is a former trial lawyer who now writes full time. He is also the fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine and adjunct professor of writing at Pepperdine University.

His book on writing, Plot and Structure is one of the most popular writing books available today. The national bestselling author of several novels of suspense, he grew up and still lives in Los Angeles, where he is at work on his next Buchanan thriller.

The Book Link

MY REVIEW:

Although this novel isn’t classified as a mystery, it still is one. Ty Buchanan goes through hell and high water to find out who murdered his fiancé. One could call it a legal thriller because the main character is a lawyer—one who’s going to find answers, regardless of the consequences.

Bell is the master of plot, as anyone who has read Plot and Structure knows. The story line was great, bolstered by some nice side plots that were woven into the main one. I love it when everything seems multi-directional but then converges in an unexpected way at the end. The action moved a bit slowly for me, but that doesn’t mean the author is at fault, it just means the plot was a bit too character-driven for me—the slower plot is a side effect.

I experienced nothing earth-shattering or mind-blowing while reading, but the book held my attention regardless. When I see great writing, almost any plot can interest me enough for me to finish it and give it a thumbs up. Which I do.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Stunning Conclusion of my Deadfall Review...

Yesterday, I posted the first portion of my review. As of Wednesday morning, I had not yet finished the novel. However, yesterday I did. Here's what I have to add:

I have now finished Deadfall. While partially predictable, the ending was satisfying—not one of those where you say, “You’ve got to be kidding! Don’t kill off the main character! Why is the bad guy getting away?”

And there’s no mushy romance (YAY!) or trite monologues that make you want to puke. There was one time where one of the POV characters had a conversation with another character and I thought it was a tad unbelievable considering the situation they were in, but that’s highly subjective, and I’m a picky daughter-of-a-gun.

It’s definitely worth the read, people.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

CFBA rocks the house with: Deadfall, by Robert Liparulo





ABOUT THE BOOK:

Deep in the isolated Northwest Territories, four friends are on the trip of a lifetime. Dropped by helicopter into the Canadian wilderness, Hutch, Terry, Phil, and David are looking to escape the events of a tumultuous year for two weeks of hunting, fishing, and camping.

Armed with only a bow and arrow and the basics for survival, they've chosen a place far from civilization, a retreat from their turbulent lives. But they quickly discover that another group has targeted the remote region and the secluded hamlet of Fiddler Falls for a more menacing purpose: to field test the ultimate weapon.

With more than a week before the helicopter rendezvous and no satellite phone, Hutch, a skilled bow-hunter and outdoor-survivalist must help his friend elude their seemingly inescapable foes, as well as decide whether to run for their lives...or risk everything to help the townspeople who are being held hostage and terrorized.

An intense novel of character forged in the midst of struggle, survival, and sacrifice. Deadfall is highly-acclaimed author Robert Liparulo's latest rivetingly smart thriller.

Get Downloads and EXCERPTS at www.LIPARULO.com


"DEADFALL is drop-dead great!"
-In The Library Reviews

"What if Mad Max, Rambo, and the Wild Bunch showed up-all packing Star Wars type weapons? You'd have Robert Liparulo's thrilling new adventure Deadfall."
-Katherine Neville, best selling author of The Eight
"A brilliantly crafted thriller with flawless execution. I loved it!"
-Michael Palmer, best selling author of The Fifth Vial

"In Deadfall, Robert Liparulo gives us a fresh fast paced novel that instills a well founded fear of the villians and an admiration for the people who refuse to be victims. It truly deserves the name thriller.
-Thomas Perry, best selling author of The Butcher's Boy and Silence

"Another brilliantly conceived premise from Robert Liparulo. Deadfall will leave you looking over your shoulder and begging for more."
-DAve Dun, best selling author of The Black Silent



A NOTE from Bob: I’d like to give away five signed copies of Deadfall to readers of CFBA blogs during my tour. All they have to do is sign up for my e-mailing list (they won’t be inundated!) by going to my website (www.robertliparulo.com) and going to the “Mailing List” page. Or email me with “CFBA giveaway” in the subject line.

And a second NOTE from Bob: I wanted to let you know that I’m holding a contest on my site:

**one winner a week till the end of the year for a signed Deadfall
**one winner a week till the end of the year for an unabridged audio MP3-CD of Deadfall
***and on Dec. 31, I’m giving away an iPod Nano, pre-loaded with an unabridged audio recording of Deadfall

Winners are selected from my e-mailing list—sign up at my site. If a winner has already purchased what he/she wins, I will reimburse them for the purchase price (or give them another—whichever they choose), so they don’t need to wait to see if they win before buying Deadfall.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robert is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Robert's first novel painted a scenario so frighteningly real that six Hollywood producers were bidding on movie rights before the novel was completed. His acclaimed debut novel, Comes A Horseman, is being made into a major motion picture by producer Mace Neufeld and his short story "Kill Zone" was featured in the anthology Thriller, edited by James Patterson.

Bob has sold the film rights to his second book, GERM. And he is writing the screenplay for a yet-to-be-written political thriller, which sold to Phoenix Pictures, for Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, The Guardian) to direct!

He is currently working on his fourth novel.

MY REVIEW:

I'm going to blame my husband for the fact that I haven't finished reading Deadfall. He saw the cover, thought it looked cool, and stole it from me. Time passed and he hadn't finished yet (not unusual for him). Not realizing the time neared for the CFBA blog tour, I stole it back and started reading. I'm in the midst of it right now, and I think I'll be done by tonight.

So, I'm going to give my thoughts on it so far and then come back tomorrow and tell you if the ending lived up to the rest of it. Sound fair? Of course it does.

Unfortunately, I haven't had the privilege of reading Bob's previous works, Comes a Horseman and Germ. I've heard many good things about them. Now that I've tasted his writing style, I'm definitely going to have to get them ASAP.

I won't run down the plot, because that's covered above in the "About the Book" section. I will say that all the hullabaloo I've heard in previous months about the "excessive gore and violence" in Bob's works is simply overstated. I've seen more violence on CSI: Miami or any James Bond or Die Hard movie.

Seriously, it doesn't bother me that someone is blown to smithereens. And chronicling that in a bit of detail just paints a more accurate picture in my mind and makes me hate the bad guys more. I feel it's justified (if it has to be).

The plot is good, if not overused--bad guys take people (in this case a whole town) hostage for their own purposes (we find out what that is later in the book) and then some good guys come in and try to stop them. The novel takes place in Canada, though, which is different, and the unlikely good guys are hunters on vacation who kinda get thrown into the game. Good stuff.

I sound like a broken record when I keep saying stuff like this, but hey, it's my blog and my review and my opinion: too much description. Okay, I said it. Sorry. I think that for weapons enthusiasts or hunting enthusiasts, the extra paragraphs would probably be interesting, but not for me. Put some dialog in there or something and get me to the next scene so I can see who gets blown to bits next.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying this book. The redemptive themes are a little buried, but I'm picking them out--the value of friendship and sacrifice being two.

All in all, I give Deadfall a thumbs up. Now I have to go finish and find out if the conclusion thrills me as much as the rest. To be continued...


The Book Link

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CFBA Tour this week: Illuminated, by Matt Bronleewe







ABOUT THE BOOK:


IT'S BEEN 500 YEARS IN THE MAKING...PREPARE TO BE ILLUMINATED...
August Adams has failed his family before. He's sacrificed relationships in pursuit of adventure, fame, and money. Now the very lives of those he loves depend on his ability to decipher a centuries-old puzzle encrypted in the colorful hand-painted illuminations that adorn three rare Gutenberg Bibles.

It's a secret that could yield unimaginable wealth, undermine two major religions, and change the course of Western civilization. Two ruthless, ancient organizations are willing to do anything to get their hands on it. And August has the span of one transatlantic flight to figure it out.

If he fails, those he holds most dear will die. If he succeeds, he'll destroy a national treasure.

The clock ticks, the suspense mounts, and the body count rises as August pits his knowledge and his love for his family against the clock, secret societies, and even Johannes Gutenberg himself.

"...this rare breed of suspense thriller combines mysterious hidden clues, secret societies, buried treasure, double agents, and the Knights Templar...if you turned National Treasure into international treasure, traded DaVinci codes for Gutenberg Bibles, married it to Indiana Jones, and added the pacing of 24 you'd be in the neighborhood of Illuminated...on a scale of one to 10, this one goes to 11."
-Aspiring Retail Magazine







ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Matt Bronleewe is a recognized producer, songwriter and author. The former member of the band Jars of Clay, has earned numerous awards producing and co-writing albums that have sold a combined total of over 20 million copies. His songs have recently been recorded by Disney pop sensations Aly & AJ, American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke, and more. Bronleewe has worked with Grammy Award-winning artists such as Michael W. Smith, International pop singer Natalie Imbruglia and Heroes star Hayden Panettiere.

Born in Dallas, Texas, Bronleewe was raised on a farm in Kansas, where he lived until he left for college in 1992. At Greenville College in Illinois, Bronleewe formed the band Jars of Clay with his dorm roommate and two neighbors, and the group soon found success. Though Bronleewe opted to leave Jars of Clay early on to pursue an academic career, he soon found himself in Nashville, co-writing, producing, and playing music professionally.

To add to his list of accomplishments, Bronleewe has expanded his love of story telling beyond music into authorship. He is currently penning a 5 book series for Thomas Nelson Fiction. Illuminated, in stores now, begins the adventurous series about rare manuscripts and the mysteries within.

Bronleewe currently resides in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife and three children. He continues to write and produce music, and he also volunteers through his church to help disadvantaged youth in the community. Bronleewe enjoys reading, taste-testing good food and watching sports, as well as indulging his interests in art, architecture, design and science.


MY REVIEW, OR AN ATTEMPT AT ONE:

Sometimes, after you've read a novel, you feel satisfied, warm and fuzzy, or tired from the frantic pace and can succinctly explain what made it so good. When the book is awful, you can usually tell someone exactly what the author did wrong--where the plot fell apart or examples of shoddy writing.

I can't classify Matt's novel in either of those categories. Truly, it falls somewhere inbetween. Everyone who knows me knows I'm a huge suspense fan. And there was a lot of hype about this book. So I probably came into it with high expectations. I really wanted the book to be a blockbuster. It wasn't for me.

I can't say exactly what was "wrong" with it, only that it perhaps left me wanting more depth in the characters, more believable situations (like, how many people can have a complete historical conversation while running full-speed from bad guys through a building?), a better portrayal of the broken relationship between the main character and his estranged wife, and a few other things.

The plot made for a great idea, perhaps even the stuff of movies. Something was lost, though, from concept to finished product. It pains me to even be honest because I know what time and effort went into writing this. It's not bad. It's just not one of my favorites.

Go buy it and be your own judge.


The Book Link

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

FLASHPOINT Blog Tour


Persecution in Chicago has reached the Flashpoint.

In the year 2036, all nations are run by a one-world government.
The One State has but one threat: Fundamentalist terrorists.
The One State has declared that Bible believing Christians are now terrorists.

But the One State has not yet encountered
Calamity Kid and
e-girl . . .


When peacekeepers bust a home-church in Ward-Six of the Chicago Metroplex,
brother and sister, Dave and Jen Williams, are the only members who evade capture.
Their only place to turn? A Christian ‘terrorist’ cell known as the Body of Christ.

In their shattered world, Dave and Jen adopt codenames and slip between the
Underground cracks of the Chicago Metroplex. They must save their home-church
before their parents, brother, and neighbors are all brainwashed by the One State
Neros or worse.

Calamity Kid and e-girl fearlessly walk the valley of death, because He is with them.
But they’ll need every molecule of their re-formed faith to face down peacekeepers,
gangers, One-State neros, and fallen-angels, in America’s dark Post-Modern Humanist
age.


Hopefully, you've already seen my previous review of Frank Creed's novel Flashpoint. He's definitely an author to watch.

Unfortunately, I don't have anything new or original to add, but there's lots of cool info out there about this book and there are other places you can go for the scoop and some laughs, too. Try some of these nifty blogs:

Fantasy Thyme
jamessomers.blogspot.com
Write and Whine
Hoshi to Sakura
Wayfarer's Journal
BlogCritics Interview
Daniel I Weaver
Disturbing the Universe
Grace Bridges
Queen of Convolution
Virtual Tour de 'Net
Christian Fiction Review Blog
Yellow30 Sci-Fi: Review
Yellow30 Sci-Fi: Interview
Back to the Mountains
MaryLu Tyndall
Cathi's Chatter

Frank's website: FrankCreed.com

Books of the Underground site: BooksoftheUnderground.com

Buy the book here: Purchase Flashpoint at Amazon.com

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

CFBA Presents: Crimson Eve, by Brandilyn Collins



ABOUT THE BOOK:

Carla stared at the gun and David Thornby—or whatever his name was. Her mind split in two, one side pleading this was some sick joke, the other screaming it was all too real.

“Please. You must have the wrong person. There’s no reason for someone to want me dead. I don’t have any enemies.”

“Then you’d best rethink your friends.”

Realtor Carla Radling shows an “English gentleman” a lakeside estate—and finds herself facing a gun. Who has hired this assassin to kill her, and why?

Forced on the run, Carla must uncover the scathing secrets of her past. Secrets that could destroy some very powerful people...


Brandilyn Collins fans and reviewers are saying Crimson Eve is her best book yet:

“Collins tops herself by creating a suspenseful nonstop thrill ride … Truly the best Christian Fiction suspense title so far this year.”
– Library Journal, starred review

Crimson Eve is Collins at her very best. It left me feeling as if I’d climbed Mount Everest without oxygen … I didn’t think Brandilyn could outdo herself after reading Coral Moon. She did.”
–TitleTrakk.com

“I’ve never edited a more tightly crafted, deftly woven, compellingly written book.” –a Crimson Eve editor, with 20 years experience

“This is your best book! I could not stop reading!” – one of many readers with similar responses


Read about Violet Dawn and Coral Moon, books one and two in the Kanner Lake series.

Do you know someone who’s never read a Brandilyn Collins novel? Surely no such person exists. However, should you scrounge up such a friend—someone who enjoys suspense—here’s a special offer from Brandilyn. Be among the first 50 people between now and October 21, 2007 to e-mail her assistant at gayle.brandilyncollins@gmail.com with the person’s name, e-mail address and street address. (Due to exorbitant overseas mailing costs, United States residents only, please).

A signed copy of Crimson Eve will be sent to your friend—free—along with an e-mail from Brandilyn announcing the book is on its way, courtesy of you. (Don’t worry. Brandilyn won’t spam these email addresses. She just wants your friend to know who to thank.) No worries that this story is third in the Kanner Lake series. Each book stands alone. Brandilyn is convinced your friend will so love Crimson Eve, he/she will surely reciprocate with expensive chocolate.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense™. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline “Don’t forget to b r e a t h e…® ” She’s so well known in the industry there’s actually a club for her non-readers. That’s right. The Big Honkin’ Chickens Club (BHCC) members are proud of the fact that they’re too wimpy to read Brandilyn’s intense fiction. Now and then one of them tries. Bribing works pretty well. (Just ask Deb Raney.) Somehow they live to tell the tale.

Brandilyn writes for Zondervan, the Christian division of HarperCollins Publishers, and is currently at work on her 17th book. Her first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows.

She’s also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons), and often teaches at writers conferences. Brandilyn blogs at Forensics and Faith.

Visit her website to read the first chapters of all her books:
Seatbelt Suspense

And her blog:

Forensics and Faith

The Book Link

And now for my review:

Collins is back in full force as her characters face murder, fear, and secrets from the past. Third novel in the Kanner Lake Series, Crimson Eve packs a wallop in what I think is the best yet in the series. And while I recommend reading the first two books in the series, this one is a stand-alone—you don’t have to read the others to understand and enjoy it.

Carla Redding, Kanner Lake realtor, shows recently-passed Edna San’s sprawling home to a dapper English gentleman. But things go south when he makes it known he’d like her dead!

Who would put a contract out on such a sweet, harmless lady? As always, things are not as pleasant as they would seem on the surface. Carla runs for her life, while events she hasn’t thought about in years bubble to the surface.

This felt more like a mystery or psychological thriller, mixed in with a womens’-issues plotline. Doesn’t make sense? Oh, it will. No matter what you guess, your mind will not be able to spoil every surprise. Collins always has another up her sleeve just when you think you’ve figured everything out.

I give it an “A” for character development and plot. Scaryness? Well, maybe a “B-”. ‘Course, I’m not scared easily. And there weren’t spiders or snakes or Satanists in this one!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

One of my Very Favorite Authors on CFBA! Creston Mapes: NOBODY









ABOUT THE BOOK


Not everything that happens in Vegas has to stay in Vegas!

They said, “He’s a nobody.”
They were dead wrong.

When reporter Hudson Ambrose hears an early morning call on his police scanner about an injured person at a bus stop on Las Vegas Boulevard, he rushes to the scene to get the scoop.
His world is blown off its axis when he discovers a murdered homeless man with a bankbook in his pocket showing a balance of almost one million dollars. Should he wait for the police, knowing the case will get lost in reams of red tape, or swipe the bankbook and take the investigation–and perhaps a chunk of the money–into his own hands?

With sirens bearing down on the scene, Hudson makes an impulse decision that whisks him on a frantic search for answers, not only about the mysterious dead man, but about the lost soul lurking within himself.

Uncovering bizarre links between a plane crash, a Las Vegas pit boss, a dirty cop, and a widowed Atlanta business mogul, Hudson is forced to find out: who was Chester Holte, what was he doing on the streets, and why are his homeless friends convinced he was an angel in disguise?

~~~

“Nobody was absolutely riveting from the opening scene to the final page. With compelling characters, a plot that surprised me at every turn, and a subtle, yet profound message that moved me to tears, this book goes straight to the top of my highly recommended list.”
- Deborah Raney, author of Remember to Forget and Within This Circle

“A taut, entertaining novel of mystery, intrigue, and spiritual truth. Creston Mapes delivers a winner in Nobody.”
- James Scott Bell, bestselling author of No Legal Grounds and Try Dying

“Nobody had me fascinated from the first paragraph and kept the surprises coming to the very end. Somehow, as the pages flew by, it also managed to convey a beautiful picture of faith the size of a mustard seed. From now on I’ll read anything by Creston Mapes the instant it hits the shelves.”
- Athol Dickson, Christy Award—winning author of River Rising and The Cure










ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Creston Mapes is a talented storyteller whose first two novels, Dark Star and Full Tilt, made him a finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year awards and the Inspirational Readers Choice awards. Creston has written for major corporations, colleges, and ministries, including Coca-Cola, TNT Sports, Oracle, Focus on the Family, and In Touch Ministries. Committed to his craft and his family, Creston makes his home in Georgia with his wife, Patty, and their four children.

He's been married for twenty-one years to the girl he first loved way back in fourth grade. They have three lovely girls and a boy in a very close-knit family, spending a lot of time together - watching old classic movies, going on outings, and taking in various school and community events and activities. Creston loves to go for morning walks with his dog, read, paint watercolors, meet friends for coffee and Bible study, watch hockey, take his wife on dates, and spend time in God's Word.

(What a great guy!)

I've met Creston before, and he really is a wonderful human being. I'm so thankful that God is using him in fiction and in the world at large. I pray God's richest blessings on him.

And now, for my review:

Truly this author has a gift, one wrapped up in paper, hundreds of pages of paper, that have the potential to wrap up the reader in wonder. A gift that he has shared with the world, one that all of us should receive with thanks. (No, I received no money for the previous sentences. LOL.)

I don’t know why Creston Mapes isn’t more popular, hasn’t sold more books, hasn’t been lauded with more accolades. But I do know that his reward is in heaven for listening to the Father’s voice and writing the Father’s heart. In no book of his has this been more evident than in Nobody.

You can read back cover copy for a teaser and many other places for a summary or synopsis. I usually begin my reviews with one, but I don’t think I need it today. Just know you will enjoy the book. Period.

I learned from and was challenged by many different characters--sacrifice from Chester, the dangers of legalism etc. from Scribe, the importance of a good witness from Holly, and lots more.

Of course, the plot is my favorite part of a book and Nobody had it all, including an especially good reveal at the end about why Chester was killed. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it again.

Creston himself has qualified this as a sort of psychological thriller, but I see it as more of a mystery. Regardless, it’s a grand read.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Zero G, by the prolific Alton Gansky



Does this guy ever stop writing? Thank God the answer to that is: "No."

And now, for a humble yet stimulating review by moi. :)


If the last time you had flown into space, a disaster of mass proportions happened to you and your team, what would it take to get you up there again? How long would it take before you were mentally and emotionally able to lead another mission? And even if you were ready, would NASA let you pilot again?

These are the questions Ben “Tuck” Tucker must face. Former space shuttle commander for NASA, he is one of the most celebrated pilots in recent history. Unfortunately, his rise to hero status involved a terrifying calamity involving faulty dermal patches. Instead of helping astronauts deal with the effects of microgravity, they dealt a fatal blow.

At a time Tuck least expects, multi-millionaire entrepreneur Ted Roos approaches him with a proposition: pilot the first commercial spacecraft for his new company. Despite his reservations, it’s an offer Tuck can’t refuse.

A mysterious adversary bent on vengeance seeks to destroy Tuck and anyone else who gets in his way. Tuck must find the faith he lost long ago in order to save innocent lives.

Gansky creates quite a complicated plot system, though some aspects are a bit predictable. I do like how the reader doesn’t find out why the bad guy is doing what he’s doing (aside from the fact that he’s off balance) until near the end. It kept me wondering, engaged, and on edge throughout the entire story.

Another interesting aspect is Tuck’s relationship with his family, despite a lack of communication and real understanding. Tuck’s family worries about him when he’s space bound, and wish he would never go up again. Not comprehending this, and being absorbed with his own problems, Tuck keeps them at arm’s length unknowingly. But misfortune has a way of clarifying priorities and strengthening faith. They all learn from their trials and wind up closer than ever.

Suspense fans who enjoy the combination of astronauts/space travel (vaguely reminiscent of Randy Ingermanson and John Olson’s Oxygen and The Fifth Man) and biological scientific research (an element that can also be found in Gansky’s Finder’s Fee), should enjoy Zero G. I recommend it as heartily as I have every other Gansky novel I’ve read, which has been all of them.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

FIRST presents: Demon: A Memoir, by Tosca Lee

My review of this was published in an earlier post on this blog. Here's the url so you can read it! Demon: A Memoir reviewed by me



It is October 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!




This month's feature author is:



and her book:

Demon: A Memoir

(NavPress, September 1, 2007)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tosca Lee received her BA in English and International Relations from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has also studied at Oxford University.

As a Leadership Consultant, Tosca works with managers and leaders of organizations throughout the Pan-Pacific region, Europe, and the U.S.

Tosca is a former Mrs. Nebraska-America 1996, Mrs. Nebraska-United States 1998 and first runner-up to Mrs. United States and has been lauded nationally for her efforts to fight breast cancer.

In her spare time, Tosca enjoys cooking, studying history and theology, and traveling. She currently resides in Nebraska with her Shar Pei, Attila.

Visit her at her website and her blog.

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Chapter One


It was raining the night he found me. Traffic had slowed on Massachusetts Avenue, and the wan light of streetlamps reflected off the pavement. I was hurrying on without an umbrella, distracted by the chirp of a text message on my phone, trying to shield its illuminated face from rain and the drizzle off storefront awnings. There had been a mistake in my schedule, an appointment that I didn’t recognize and that I had stayed late at the office for — until six forty-five — just in case. Our office manager was texting me from home now to say she had no idea who it was with, that the appointment must have belonged on Phil’s calendar, that she was sorry for the mistake and to have a good night.

I flipped the phone shut, shoved it in my bag. I was worn out by this week already, and it was only Tuesday. The days were getting shorter, the sun setting by six o’clock. It put me on edge, gnawed at me, as though I had better get somewhere warm and cheerful or, barring all else, home before it got any darker. But I was unwilling to face the empty apartment, the dirty dishes and unopened mail on the counter. So I lowered my head against the rain and walked another two blocks past my turnoff until I came to the Bosnian Café. A strap of bells on the door announced my entrance with a ringing slap.

I liked the worn appeal of the Bosnian Café with its olfactory embrace of grilled chicken and gyro meat that enveloped me upon every arrival and clung to me long after leaving. That night, in the premature darkness and rain, the café seemed especially homey with its yellowing countertops, chipped mirrors, and grimy ketchup bottles. Cardboard shamrocks, remnants of a forgotten Saint Patrick’s Day, draped the passthrough into the kitchen, faded around their die-cut edges. A string of Christmas lights lined the front window, every third bulb out. On the wall above the register, a framed photo of the café’s owner with a local pageant queen, and another with a retired Red Sox player, had never been dusted. But no one, including me, seemed to mind.

I stood in the entry waiting for Esad, the owner, to notice me. But it was not the bald man who welcomed me.

It was the dark-haired stranger.

I was surveying the other tables, looking for inspiration — chicken or steak, gyro or salad — when he beckoned. I hesitated, wondering if I should recognize him, this man sitting by himself — but no, I did not know him. He impatiently waved again, and I glanced over my shoulder, but there was no one standing in the entryway but me. And then the man at the table stood up and strode directly to me.

“You’re late,” he said, clasping my shoulder and smiling. He was tall, tanned, with curling hair and a slightly hooked nose that did nothing to detract from his enviable Mediterranean looks. His eyes glittered beneath well-formed brows. His teeth were very white.

“I’m sorry. I think you have the wrong person,” I said. He chuckled.

“Not at all! I’ve been waiting for you for quite some time. An eternity, you might say. Please, come sit down. I took the liberty of ordering for you.” His voice reminded me of fine cognac, the Hors d’Age men drink aboard their yachts as they cut their Cohíbas.

“You have the wrong person. I don’t know you,” I insisted, even as he steered me toward the table. I didn’t want to embarrass him; he already seemed elegantly out of place here in what, for all practical purposes, was a joint. But he would feel like an elegant fool in another minute, especially if his real appointment — interview, date, whatever — walked in and saw him sitting here with me.

“But I know you, Clay.”

I started at the sound of my name, spoken by him with a mixture of familiarity and strange interest, and then I studied him more closely — the squareness of his jaw, the smoothness of his cheek, his utter self-possession — wondering if I had indeed met him before. But I hadn’t, I was certain of it now.

One of Esad’s nephews arrived with a chicken sandwich and two cups of coffee. “Please,” the stranger said, motioning to a vinyl-covered chair. Numbly, stupidly, I sat.

“You work down the street at Brooks and Hanover,” he said when the younger man had gone. He seated himself adjacent to me, his chair angled toward mine. He crossed his legs, plucked invisible lint off the fine wool of his trousers. “You’re an editor.”

Several thoughts went through my head in that moment, none of them savory: first, that this was some finance or insurance rep who — just like the pile of loan offers on my counter at home — was trying to capitalize on my recent divorce. Or, that this was some aggressive literary agent trying to play suave.

Most likely, though, he was a writer.

Every editor has stories to tell: zealous writers pushing manuscripts on them during their kid’s softball game, passing sheaves of italicized print across pews at church, or trying to pick them up in bars, casually mentioning between lubricated flirtations that they write stories on the side and just happen to have a manuscript in the car. I had lost count of the dry cleaners, dental hygienists, and plumbers who, upon hearing what I did for a living, had felt compelled to gift me with their short stories and children’s books, their novels-in-progress and rhyming poetry.

“Look, whoever you are — ”

“Lucian.”

I meant to tell him that I was sure we didn’t publish whatever it was he wanted me to read, that there were industryaccepted ways to get his work to us if we did, that he could visit the website and check out the guidelines. I also meant to get up and walk away, to look for Esad or his nephew and put an order in — to go. But I didn’t say or do any of these things, because what he said next stopped me cold.

“I know you’re searching, Clay. I know you’re wondering what these late, dark nights are for. You have that seasonal disease, that modern ailment, don’t you? SAD, they call it. But it isn’t the disorder — you should know that. It isn’t even your divorce. That’s not what’s bothering you. Not really.”

I was no longer hungry. I pushed away the chicken sandwich
he had ordered and said with quiet warning, “I don’t know who you are, but this isn’t funny.”

He went on as though he hadn’t heard me, saying with what seemed great feeling, “It’s that you don’t know what it’s all for: the hours and days, working on the weekends, the belief that you’ll eventually get caught up and on that ultimate day something will happen. That everything will make sense or you’ll at least have time to figure it out. You’re a good man, Clay, but what has that won you? You’re alone, growing no younger, drifting toward some unknown but inevitable end in this life. And where is the meaning in that?”

I sat very still. I felt exposed, laid open, as though I had emptied my mind onto the table like the contents of a pocket. I could not meet his gaze. Nearby, a couple — both of their heads dripping dirty blond dreadlocks — mulled over menus as the woman dandled an infant on her lap. Beyond them, a thickset woman paged through People, and a young man in scrubs plodded in a sleep-deprived daze through an anemic salad. I wondered if any of them had noticed my uncanny situation, the strange hijacking taking place here. But they were mired in their menus, distractions, and stupor. At the back counter, a student tapped at the keypad of his phone, sending messages into the ether.

“I realize how this feels, and I apologize,” Lucian said, folding long fingers together on his knee. His nails were smooth and neatly manicured. He wore an expensivelooking watch, the second hand of which seemed to hesitate before hiccupping on, as though time had somehow slowed in the sallow light of the diner. “I could have done this differently, but I don’t think I would have had your attention.”

“What are you, some kind of Jehovah’s Witness?” I said. It was the only thing that made sense. His spiel could have hit close to anyone. I felt conned, angry, but most of all embarrassed by my emotional response.

His laughter was abrupt and, I thought, slightly manic. “Oh my,” he said, wiping the corners of his eyes. I pushed back my chair.

His merriment died so suddenly that were it not for the sound of it still echoing in my ears, I might have thought I had imagined it. “I’m going to tell you everything,” he said, leaning toward me so that I could see the tiny furrows around the corners of his mouth, the creases beneath his narrowed eyes. A strange glow emanated from the edge of his irises like the halo of a solar eclipse. “I’m going to tell you my story. I’ve great hope for you, in whom I will create the repository of my tale — my memoir, if you will. I believe it will be of great interest to you. And you’re going to write it down and publish it.”

Now I barked a stunted laugh. “No, I’m not. I don’t care if you’re J. D. Salinger.”

Again he went on as though I’d said nothing. “I understand they’re all the rage these days, memoirs. Publishing houses pay huge sums for the ghostwritten, self-revelatory accounts of celebrities all the time. But trust me; they’ve never acquired a story like mine.”

“Look,” I said, a new edge in my voice, “You’re no celebrity I recognize, and I’m no ghostwriter. So I’m going to get myself some dinner and be nice enough to forget this ever happened.” But as I started to rise, he grabbed me by the arm. His fingers, biting through the sleeve of my coat, were exceedingly strong, unnaturally warm, and far too intimate.

“But you won’t forget,” he said, the strange light of fanaticism in his eyes. His mouth seemed to work independently of their stare, as though it came from another face altogether. “You will recall everything — every word I say. Long after you have forgotten, in fact, the name of this café, the way I summoned you to this table, the first prick of your mortal curiosity about me. Long after you have forgotten, in fact, the most basic details of your life. You will remember, and you will curse or bless this day.”

I felt ill. Something about the way he said mortal . . . In that instant, reality, strung out like an elastic band, snapped. This was no writer.

“Yes. You see,” he said quietly. “You know. We can share now, between us, the secret of what I am.”

And the words came, unbidden, to my mind: Fallen. Dark Spirit.

Demon.

The trembling that began in my stomach threatened to seize up my diaphragm. But then he released me and sat back. “Now. Here is Mr. Esad, wondering why you haven’t touched your sandwich.” And indeed, here came the bald man, coffeepot in hand, smiling at the stranger as though he were more of a regular than I. I stared between them as they made their pleasantries, the sound of their banter at sick odds with what my visceral sense told me was true, what no one else seemed to notice: that I was sitting here with something incomprehensively evil.

When Esad left, Lucian took a thin napkin from the dispenser and set it beside my coffee cup. The gesture struck me as aberrantly mundane. He sighed.

“I feel your trepidation, that sense that you ought to get up and leave immediately. And under normal circumstances, I would say that you are right. But listen to me now when I tell you you’re safe. Be at ease. Here. I’ll lean forward like this, in your human way. When that couple over there sees my little smile, this conspiratorial look, they’ll think we’re sharing a succulent bit of gossip.”

I wasn’t at ease. Not at all. My heart had become a pounding liability in my chest.

“Why?” I managed, wishing I were even now in the emptiness of my apartment, staring at the world through the bleak window of my TV.

Lucian leaned even closer, his hand splayed across the top of the table so that I could see the blue veins along the back of it. His voice dropped below a whisper, but I had no difficulty hearing him. “Because my story is very closely connected to yours. We’re not so different after all, you and I. We both want purpose, meaning, to see the bigger picture. I can give you that.”

“You don’t even know me!”

“On the contrary,” he said, sliding the napkin dispenser away, as though it were a barrier between us. “I know everything about you. Your childhood house on Ridgeview Drive. The tackle box you kept your football cards in. The night you tried to sneak out after homecoming to meet Lindsey Bennett. You broke your wrist climbing out of the window.”

I stared.

“I know of your father’s passing — you were fifteen. About the merlot you miss since giving up drinking, the way you dip your hamburgers in blue cheese dressing — your friend Piotr taught you that in college. That you’ve been telling yourself you ought to get away somewhere — Mexico, perhaps. That you think it’s the seasonal disorder bothering you, though it’s not — ”

“Stop!” I threw up my hands, wanting him to leave at once, equally afraid that he might and that I would be stuck knowing that there was this person — this thing — watching me. Knowing everything.

His voice gentled. “Let me assure you you’re not the only one; I could list myriad facts about anyone. Name someone. How about Sheila?” He smirked. “Let’s just say she didn’t return your essage from home, and her husband thinks she’s working late. Esad? Living in war-torn Bosnia was no small feat. He — ” He cocked his head, and there came now a faint buzzing like an invisible swarm of mosquitoes. I instinctively jerked away.

“What was that?” I demanded, unable to pinpoint where the sound had come from.

“Ah. A concentration camp!” He looked surprised. “I didn’t know that. Did you know that? And as for your ex — ” He tilted his head again.

“No! Please, don’t.” I lowered my head into my hand, dug my fingers into my scalp. Five months after the divorce, the wound still split open at the mere mention of her.

“You see?” he whispered, his head ducked down so that he stared intently up into my face. “I can tell you everything.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’ve made a pastime of studying case histories, of following them through from beginning to end. You fascinate me in the same way that beetles with their uncanny instinct for dung rolling used to fascinate you. I know more about you than your family. Than your ex. Than you know about yourself, I daresay.”

Something — some by-product of fear — rose up within me as anger at last. “If you are what you say, aren’t you here to make some kind of deal for my soul? To tempt me? Why did you order me coffee, then? Why not a glass of merlot or a Crown and Coke?” My voice had risen, but I didn’t care; I felt my anger with relief.

Lucian regarded me calmly. “Please. How trite. Besides, they don’t serve liquor here.” But then his calm fell away, and he was staring — not at me but past me, toward the clock on the wall. “But there,” he pointed. His finger seemed exceedingly long. “See how the hour advances without us!” He leapt to his feet, and I realized with alarm that he meant to leave.

“What — you can’t just go now that you’ve — ”

“I’ve come to you at great risk,” he hissed, the sound sibilant, as though he had whispered in my ear though he stood three feet away. And then he strode to the glass door and pushed out into the darkness, disappearing beyond the reflected interior of the café like a shadow into a mirror. The strap of bells fell against the door with a flat metal clink, and my own stunned reflection stared back.

Rain pelted my eyes, slipped in wet tracks through my hair against my scalp, ran in rivulets down my nape to mingle with the sweat against my back. It had gotten colder, almost freezing, but I was sweating inside the sodden collar of my shirt as I hurried down Norfolk, my bag slapping against my hip, my legs cramped and wooden, nightmare slow.

The abrupt warmth inside my apartment building threatened to suffocate me as I stumbled up the stairs. My ears pintingled to painful life as I fumbled with my keys. Inside my apartment at last, I fell back against the door, head throbbing and lungs heaving in the still air. I stayed like that, my coat dripping onto the carpet, for several long moments. Then a mad whim struck me.

With numb fingers, I retrieved the laptop from my bag and set it up on the kitchen table. With my coat still on, I dropped down onto a wooden chair, staring at the screen as it yawned to life. I logged into the company server, opened my calendar.

There — my six-thirty appointment. It was simply noted: L.

Sample from Demon / ISBN 1-60006-123-0
Copyright © 2006 NavPress Publishing.
All rights reserved.
To order copies of this resource, come back to www.navpress.com.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dr. D. James Kennedy Enters Eternity

I am in tears upon hearing of Dr. Kennedy's passing. I've listened to him on the radio for years and I'm in awe of his commitment to the spreading of the gospel and turning America back to Christ. So many times I've been challenged and encouraged in my walk with God.

Truly he was a holy man of God. And though we rejoice that he is now with Jesus, we mourn because we are still here on a dying earth.

Let's keep his family and ministry in prayer.

Here is the link to his website for more information:

http://www.coralridge.org

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

CFBA Tour Spotlights: The Dead Whisper on, by T. L. Hines

Along with my review at the end of this post, please visit my interview with Tony that I did last year. It may be a bit dated, but he spills a lot of interesting info. Here's the link:

Tony's Interview




ABOUT THE BOOK:

Would You Run Into A Burning Building?

Candace "Canada Mac" MacHugh lives a ghost of her former life.

Once a proud Butte, Montana, miner who daily risked her life setting explosives, she's now a garbage collector in her dying hometown.

Her beloved father is dead and she doesn't speak to her mom. More than anything, Candace Mac misses her father. He promised to contact her from the "other side" if he could...but it's been eleven long years. And now even her beloved city of Butte, Montana, seems to be dying off.

Candace Mac is alone. Longing for the past. Dreaming of making a difference.

Until one night when her father's voice speaks to her from the shadows. Bud MacHugh's trademark growl. The dead, it seems, have messages they hunger to share with the world...warnings of impending disasters and grave danger. Of cities doomed to burn.

But they need Canada's help.







ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tony is the author of the acclaimed Waking Lazarus. He has been an advertising agency owner/principal, a trade amgazine editor, and now a novelist.

He has been a professional writer for more than 15 years with articles appearing in publications as varied as Log Homes, Conservative Theological Journal, and Travel & Leisure. He is also Creative Director at Montana's largest advertising agency.

His long list of past odd jobs includes trimming Christmas trees, sorting seed potatoes, working the graveyard shift at a convenience store, and cleaning cadaver storage rooms.

As a teen he was undefeated in air guitar competitions in which he performed songs by ZZ Top.

He lives in Montana with his wife and daughter.


MY REVIEW:

Butte, Montana’s glory days are gone—mining has dwindled down to nothing and its dear Berkeley Pit, once yielding copper and other precious metals, is now a contaminated lake of hazardous contaminants.

“Canada Mac” MacHugh, a miner turned sanitation worker, has waited 11 years for her father, Bud MacHugh, to contact her from the grave. One morning at work, a wispy, shadowy swirl speaks her name and asks to meet with her later on that day. Canada has little trouble believing that Bud really exists on the other side and has finally contacted her. She longs to be with him so much that she agrees to fake her own death in order to join his organization of the undead.

Having put away her old life, she associates herself with her father’s operatives. Her job now is to help prepare people all over the United States for disaster and give hope to those who have survived one.

But trouble lies in wait for the citizens of Butte, who start to spontaneously combust throughout town. What is causing this deadly event and can it be stopped?

Join Canada in her adventure to make sense of the world of shadows, the stranger who stalks her at every turn, and the plight of her beloved Butte.

Though I love novels with twists, turns, and slap-you-upside-the-face moments, it’s hard to write a thorough review of them without giving too much away. So suffice it to say the reader will be surprised, perhaps a bit confused, and possibly a little freaked out by this story. For many of us, that’s a great thing.

I remember thinking repeatedly while reading this book: “This is so Koontzian, really Koontzian,”—referring, of course, to Dean Koontz’ penchant for weird supernatural phenomena. For the record, I enjoy Hines more. After all, it only takes so many homicidal maniacs chasing regular Joes around the country until I’m ruined.

Hines, in addition to putting out haunting and suspenseful stuff, can bring up questions that will keep one pondering for an undetermined amount of time. He also has an awesome interactive website and message board with perks for those readers who want to plunge in headlong to the world that is T. L. Hines.


The Book Link