Monday, December 22, 2008

THE SWORD AND THE FLUTE by Mike Hamel--Teen FIRST


It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour! This is the very last Teen FIRST tour as Teen FIRST has merged with FIRST Wild Card Tours. If you wish to learn more about FIRST Wild Card, please go HERE.




and his book:



Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mike Hamel is a seasoned storyteller who has honed his skill over theyears by telling tall tales to his four children. He is the author of several non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles.

Mike and his wife, Susan, live in Colorado Springs, CO. Their four children are now grown and their two grand children will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

From His Blog's About Me:

I am a professional writer with sixteen books to my credit, including a trilogy of titles dealing with faith and business: The Entrepreneur’s Creed (Broadman, 2001), Executive Influence (NavPress, 2003), and Giving Back (NavPress, 2003). I also edited Serving Two Masters: Reflections on God and Profit, by Bill Pollard (Collins, 2006).


My most enjoyable project to date has been an eight-volume juvenile fiction series called Matterhorn the Brave. It’s based on variegated yarns I used to spin for my four children. They are now grown and my two grandchildren will soon be old enough for stories of their own.

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado with my bride of 34 years, Susan.

As you read this blog, remember that I’m a professional. Don’t try this level of writing at home. You might suffer a dangling participle or accidentally split an infinitive and the grammarians will be all over you like shoe salesmen on a centipede.

BTW – I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, an aggressive but treatable form of cancer.


Mike's Blog, Cells Behaving Badly, is an online diary about Wrestling with Lymphoma Cancer.

To order a signed edition of any of the 6 Matterhorn the Brave books, please visit the Matterhorn the Brave Website!

Product Details

List Price: 9.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: Amg Publishers (January 22, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0899578330
ISBN-13: 978-0899578330


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Emerald Isle


Aaron the Baron hit the ground like a paratrooper, bending his knees, keeping his balance.

Matterhorn landed like a 210-pound sack of dirt.

His stomach arrived a few seconds later.

He straightened his six-foot-four frame into a sitting position. In the noonday sun he saw they were near the edge of a sloping meadow. The velvet grass was dotted with purple and yellow flowers. Azaleas bloomed in rainbows around the green expanse. The black-faced sheep mowing the far end of the field paid no attention to the new arrivals.

“Are you okay?” the Baron asked. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of a Marines’ recruiting poster. “We’ll have to work on your landing technique.”

“How about warning me when we’re going somewhere,” Matterhorn grumbled.

The Baron helped him up and checked his pack to make sure nothing was damaged. He scanned the landscape in all directions from beneath the brim of his red corduroy baseball cap. “It makes no difference which way we go,” he said at last. “The horses will find us.”

“What horses?”

“The horses that will take us to the one we came to see,” the Baron answered.

“Are you always this vague or do you just not know what you’re doing?”

“I don’t know much, but I suspect this is somebody’s field. We don’t want to be caught trespassing. Let’s go.”

They left the meadow, walking single file through the tall azaleas up a narrow valley. Thorny bushes with loud yellow blossoms crowded the trail next to a clear brook. Pushing one of the prickly plants away, Matterhorn asked, “Do you know what these are?”

“Gorse, of course,” the Baron said without turning.

“Never heard of it.”

“Then I guess you haven’t been to Ireland before.”

“Ireland,” Matterhorn repeated. “My great-grandfather came from Ireland.”

“Your great-grandfather won’t be born for centuries yet.”

Matterhorn stepped over a tangle of exposed roots and said, “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re in medieval Ireland, not modern Ireland.”

“How can that be!” Matterhorn cried, stopping in his tracks. “How can I be alive before my great-grandfather?”

The Baron shrugged. “That’s one of the paradoxes of time travel. No one’s been able to figure them all out. You’re welcome to try, but while you’re at it, keep a lookout for the horses.”

Matterhorn soon gave up on paradoxes and became absorbed in the paradise around him. The colors were so alive they hurt his eyes. He wished for a pair of sunglasses. Above the garish gorse he saw broom bushes and pine trees growing to the ridge where spectacular golden oaks crowned the slopes. Birdsongs whistled from their massive branches into the warm air. Small animals whispered in the underbrush while larger game watched the strangers from a distance.

The country flattened out and, at times, they glimpsed stone houses over the tops of hedgerows. They steered clear of these and any other signs of civilization. In a few hours, they reached the spring that fed the brook they had been following. They stopped to rest and wash up.

That’s where the horses found them.

There were five strikingly handsome animals. The leader of the pack was from ancient and noble stock. He stood a proud seventeen hands high—five-foot-eight-inches—at the shoulders. He had a classic Roman face with a white star on his wide forehead that matched the white socks on his forelegs. His straight back, sturdy body, and broad hindquarters suggested both power and speed. A rich coppery mane and tail complemented his sleek, chestnut coat.

The Baron held out an apple to the magnificent animal, but the horse showed no interest in the fruit or the man. Neither did the second horse. The third, a dappled stallion, took the apple and let the Baron pet his nose.

“These horses are free,” the Baron said as he stroked the stallion’s neck. “They choose their riders, which is as it should be. Grab an apple and find your mount.”

While Matterhorn searched for some fruit, the leader sauntered over and tried to stick his big nose into Matterhorn’s pack. When Matterhorn produced an apple, the horse pushed it aside and kept sniffing.

Did he want carrots, Matterhorn wondered? How about the peanut butter sandwich? Not until he produced a pocket-size Snickers bar did the horse whinny and nod his approval.

The Baron chuckled as Matterhorn peeled the bar and watched it disappear in a loud slurp. “That one’s got a sweet tooth,” he said.

The three other horses wandered off while the Baron and Matterhorn figured out how to secure their packs to the two that remained. “I take it we’re riding without saddles or bridles,” Matterhorn said. This made him nervous, as he had been on horseback only once before.

“Bridles aren’t necessary,” Aaron the Baron explained. “Just hold on to his mane and stay centered.” He boosted Matterhorn onto his mount. “The horses have been sent for us. They’ll make sure we get where we need to go.”

As they set off, Matterhorn grabbed two handfuls of long mane from the crest of the horse’s neck. He relaxed when he realized the horse was carrying him as carefully as if a carton of eggs was balanced on his back. Sitting upright, he patted the animal’s neck. “Hey, Baron; check out this birthmark.” He rubbed a dark knot of tufted hair on the chestnut’s right shoulder. “It looks like a piece of broccoli. I’m going to call him Broc.”

“Call him what you want,” the Baron said, “but you can’t name him. The Maker gives the animals their names. A name is like a label; it tells you what’s on the inside. Only the Maker knows that.”

Much later, and miles farther into the gentle hills, they made camp in a lea near a tangle of beech trees. “You get some wood,” Aaron the Baron said, “while I make a fire pit.” He loosened a piece of hollow tubing from the side of his pack and gave it a sharp twirl. Two flanges unrolled outward and clicked into place to form the blade of a short spade. Next, he pulled off the top section and stuck it back on at a ninety-degree angle to make a handle.

Matterhorn whistled. “Cool!”

“Cool is what we’ll be if you don’t get going.”

Matterhorn hurried into the forest. He was thankful to be alone for the first time since becoming an adult, something that happened in an instant earlier that day. Seizing a branch, he did a dozen chin-ups; then dropped and did fifty push-ups and a hundred sit-ups.

Afterward he rested against a tree trunk and encircled his right thigh with both hands. His fingertips didn’t touch. Reaching farther down, he squeezed a rock-hard calf muscle.

All this bulk was new to him, yet it didn’t feel strange. This was his body, grown up and fully developed. Flesh of his flesh; bone of his bone. Even hair of his hair, he thought, as he combed his fingers through the thick red ponytail.

He took the Sword hilt from his hip. The diamond blade extended and caught the late afternoon sun in a dazzling flash. This mysterious weapon was the reason he was looking for firewood in an Irish forest instead of sitting in the library at David R. Sanford Middle School.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Last Day of SuperGeek Week!! Don't Miss It!

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Today is the last day for the CFRB's celebration of Geek Week. In other words, the last of the reviews are up on League of Superheroes by Stephen L. Rice. The reviews have been enthusiastic; I believe Mr. Rice's tale has struck a chord with many of us. I will be giving away one copy of League of Superheroes, choosing a name on Monday, the 15th, at 10:00PM EST. The names will be taken from the comments left on ALL the blogs in the CFRB tour for the novel. This includes several great blogs that Mr. Rice has written himself giving more of the back story. If you don't read the reviews, I urge you to at least read Stephen Rice's comments. Some are pretty funny; some should help you see into the series he is writing.

Each comment counts as one entry, so the more blogs you visit, the more chances you have of winning! If you want this for a Christmas gift, it should reach you in time.

Visit Stephen Rice's blog: Back to the Mountains and his League of Superheroes Series wiki at ansric.pbwiki.com.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.95
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193428405X
ISBN-13: 978-1934284056

League of Superheroes is available through the publisher, The Writer's Café Press (can be autographed), Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com.


Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

In a League of Their Own--LEAGUE OF SUPERHEROES by Stephen L. Rice

The world is full of turmoil and evil. There are scheming powers that want to destroy humanity and take control of the world. Where can the people of the world turn for help? Look! Up in the sky! It’s . . . geeks!?! Make that Teenage mutant ninja geeks. Okay, so they are neither mutants nor ninjas. But they are teenage geeks, and they are definitely pretty cool once they get their super suits. Suits that are designed and created by a seven year old genius that they met online, no less.
PhotobucketLeague of Superheroes is the book that many a geek (teenage or older) and many a comic book aficionado has been waiting for, whether you knew it or not. I know this from the reaction of several self-proclaimed geeks and comic maniacs when I described the book to them, a reaction that has been further promoted after said geeks and fans read the story. Myself included. Oh, and by the way, this has a really important added dimension: the League is made up of extraordinarily committed Christians who desire to live according to the way that Jesus would want them to. I know: that’s the hardest to swallow of all in this story, right? But Stephen Rice makes it all work, and he does so in a most entertaining way.
Briefly, there are four teenage boys who call themselves the Mad Scientists. They each have certain special talents and gifts; each is extremely intelligent. And, as I mentioned, each is unapologetically Christian. They all attend different denominations (except Tom, who is part of a nondenominational church), they tease each other about their differences, but they really respect each other and share a love for certain comic superheroes. One day Allen’s chatty sister Clarice introduces them to her new online friend, Genie. It appears that Genie isn’t in any bottle, but she is able to grant wishes. One by one, super suits start arriving for the guys that equip them with unheard-of technological means to “become” their favorite superheroes. First is Titan for Rod; he’s kind of like a human tank. His strength is incredible, but Rod’s first attempts at controlling his powers and ability to fly are hilarious. As are his first efforts to thwart crime. Within a short time Allen becomes Tachyon, apparently reaching super speeds by distorting time, Tom turns into Darklight with invisible tendencies, and Charlie shrinks into the role of Micromegas (for you DC Comic fans, think the Atom).
The guys are on cloud nine, but to whom much is given, much is required, and life as crime fighters isn’t all fun and games. There’s the kidnapping which ends rather unhappily and alerts the guys to something very sinister behind the people that have Genie under their thumb. Her whole story is strange, and as they all get more acquainted, it becomes all too clear that she is involved with really dangerous people. Is Rod correct in his belief that this corporation has to do with the antichrist and the mysterious Troika? And what about Genie herself? Is she using the guys for her own purposes, revenge and some definitely unchristian activities?
This book is just the introduction to a whole series that Stephen Rice is developing using his characters, but for my vote it is a great beginning. Lots of action, lots of fun and humor, and some deep issues to ponder. Stephen says there is a lot more action and adventure in subsequent tales, leading me to expect a dynamite series!


Visit Stephen Rice's blog: Back to the Mountains and his League of Superheroes Series wiki at ansric.pbwiki.com.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.95
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193428405X
ISBN-13: 978-1934284056

League of Superheroes is available through the publisher, The Writer's Café Press (can be autographed), Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com. OH! And by the way, I will be giving away one copy next Monday (December 15). To be eligible for my drawing, just leave a comment on one of the League of Superheroes blogs here or on the other CFRB sites listed below. To read the other reviews and interviews, just click on the buttons!

I highly recommend the novel as a Christmas gift!!




Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

FIRST on the Sixth: LEAVE IT TO CHANCE by Sherry Sand



It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

Actually, it's past time. My apologies to the author and the publisher, but time has gotten away from me once again. I am ashamed to say it, but I haven't had a chance to read this book yet. I promise to put up a review as soon as I finish it, though. It sounds like a heart-warming story.



The feature author is:



and her book:


Leave it to Chance
David C. Cook (May 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sherri Sand is a wife and mother of four young children who keep her scrambling to stay ahead of the spilled milk. When she needs stress relief from wearing all the hats required to clothe, feed and ferry her rambunctious brood, you may find her sitting in a quiet corner of a bistro reading a book (surrounded by chocolate), or running on one of the many trails near her home. Sherri is a member of The Writer’s View and American Christian Fiction Writers. She finds the most joy in writing when the characters take on a life of their own and she becomes the recorder of their stories. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Oregon where she graduated cum laude. Sherri and her family live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

She's also a blogger! So stop by and say hi to Sherri at Creations in the Sand!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 353 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (May 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799883
ISBN-13: 978-1434799883


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“A horse? Mom, what am I going to do with a horse?” Just what she and the kids did not need. Sierra Montgomery sagged back against her old kitchen counter, where afternoon sunlight dappled the white metal cabinets across from her. She pressed the phone tight against her ear, hoping she’d heard wrong, as her four-year-old son, Trevor, ate grapes at the kitchen table.

“Miss Libby wanted you to have it. I’d think you’d be delighted, what with the kids and all. You remember Sally, Miss Libby’s daughter? Well, she just called and said it was all laid out in the will. None of their family could figure out who Sierra Lassiter Montgomery was until Sally remembered me from her mom’s church. So she called and sure enough, you were my daughter.” Sierra’s mom tsked into the phone. “Well, you know how Sally is.”

Sierra hadn’t the foggiest how Sally was, or even who she was. She barely remembered Miss Libby from her Sunday school class eons ago.

“She acted pleased that her mother gave you the horse, but I could tell she was miffed. Though what Sally Owens would do with a horse, I’d like to know.” Her mom’s voice was tight and controlled as if they were discussing how to deal with black spot on her Old English roses.

“But I don’t want a horse. You, of all people, should know that after what happened when—” How could her mom even suggest she get a horse? Painful pictures of her childhood friend Molly floated through her mind.

“Honey, accidents like that don’t happen more than once in a lifetime. Besides, Miss Libby wouldn’t have owned a crazy horse.”

Sierra stared out the window where the school bus would soon release her most precious treasures. Her mom never had understood the resounding impact that summer day had made in her life.

“You really need to think of the kids and how much fun they’d have. It’s not like you’d ever be able to afford to buy them one.”

Sierra wished she were having this conversation with Elise rather than her mother. Her best friend would understand the danger she feared in horses, and in her humorous way come up with a sensible plan that would include not keeping the animal.

Her mom, on the other hand, lived life as if she were on one of those moving conveyors at the airport that people can step on to rest their feet yet keep moving toward their destination. As long as everyone kept traveling forward, she could ignore the emotional baggage dragging behind.

“I don’t understand why Miss Libby would give the horse to me.”

“You know how my bingo club visited the Somerset rest home every week? Well, Miss Libby’s been there for years and she always did comment on how horse crazy you were when she taught your Sunday school class.”

“Mom, that was a phase I went through when I was ten and found National Velvet and Black Beauty at the library. I haven’t seen Miss Libby since middle school.”

“Obviously you were special to Miss Libby. I’d think you might be a little more grateful.”

Deep breath, Sierra told herself. “I am grateful.” An errant grape rolled next to her toe. Trevor’s blond head was bent, intent on arranging the fruit like green soldiers around the edge of his plate. Sierra tossed the grape into the sink and considered how to respond to her mom. She was a dear, but sometimes the woman was like dry kindling on a hot day, and one little spark…. “I’m just not sure that owning a horse would be a wise move at this point in our lives.”

The front door slammed and Sierra felt the walls shudder with the thud. The 3:00 p.m. stampede through the house meant it was time to get off the phone and determine how to get rid of a horse before the kids found out about it.

Her mom sighed. “It’s too bad Sally won’t keep the horse at her place for you, but she said her husband wants the horse gone. He wants to fill the pasture with sheep.”

Sheep? A kitchen chair scraped over the linoleum as Trevor scooted back from the table and dashed for the living room. “Mommy’s got a horse! Mommy’s got a horse!” Wonderful. Little ears, big mouth.

Braden and Emory shot into the kitchen, bright eyes dancing in tandem. Their words tangled together in fevered excitement despite the fact that she was on the phone.

“Where is it?” Braden’s eleven-year-old grin split his face, and his dark hair was rumpled and sweat streaked, likely from a fevered game of basketball during last recess.

She held a hand up to still the questions as her mom went on about the sheep that Sally’s husband probably did not need.

“We have a horse?” Nine-year-old Emory, her blonde hair still neat in its purple headband, fluttered in front of her mom, delight and hope blooming on her face.

Despite the fear of horses building deep in Sierra’s gut, her children’s excitement was a little contagious. She wished Miss Libby had willed her a cat.

Sierra ran her hand down Emory’s soft cheek and whispered. “I’ll be off the phone in a minute, sweetie.”

“Can we ride it?” Em looked at her with elated eyes.

Braden tossed his backpack on the table. “Where are we going to keep it?”

The kids circled her, jabbering with excited questions. Sierra rubbed her forehead with the tips of her fingers. “I gotta go, Mom. I’ve got to break some cowboy hearts.”

The kids clamored around her, Braden taking the lead with an arm draped across her shoulder. When had he gotten so big? “Do we have a horse, Mom?” He asked the question with a lopsided grin, a foreshadow of the adolescence that had been peeking through lately. The preteen in him didn’t truly believe they had a horse—he was old enough to realize the odds—but little-boy eagerness clung to his smile.

“That would be yes and a no.”

“What? Mom!” he complained.

“I was given a horse, but we’re not going to keep him.” Braden’s arm slid off her shoulder, a scowl replacing his smile. “Why not?”

“Someone gave you a horse?” Emory ignored her brother’s attitude and flashed her most persuasive grin. “Can we keep him? Please!”

Sierra smoothed her hand over the silky hair and leaned close to her daughter’s face as Emory went on. “I think we should get four horses so we each have one. We could go trail riding. Cameron’s mom has horses, and they go riding all the time as a family.”

“We’re not a family anymore,” Braden cut in. “We stopped being a family when mom divorced dad.”

A shard of pain drove into Sierra’s gut. She hadn’t had time to brace for that one. Braden’s anger at the divorce had been building like an old steam engine lately.

“That’s not fair!” Outrage darkened Emory’s features. “It’s not Mom’s fault!”

Sarcasm colored Braden’s voice. “Oh, so it’s all Dad’s fault?”

Sierra saw the confusion that swept over her daughter’s face. She was fiercely loyal to both parents and didn’t know how to defend them against each other.

Sierra spoke in a firm tone. “Braden, that’s enough!”

He scowled at her again. “Whatever.”

Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.

“Guys, we’re not going to play the blame game. We have plenty to be thankful for, and that’s what is important.”

Braden’s attitude kept pouring it on. “Boy, and we have so much. Spaghetti for dinner every other night.”

“So what, Braden-Maden!” Emory made a face and stuck her tongue out at him.

“No more fighting or you two can go to your rooms.” Her kids were not perfect, but they used to like each other. Something had changed. Her gut said it was her ex-husband, Michael, but what if she was falling into the whole “blame the dad” thing herself? What if she was really the problem? Two weeks without a job had added stress and worry. Had she stopped hugging them as often in between scouring the want ads and trying to manage a home and bills?

“Mom?” There was a quaver in Trevor’s soft voice.

“Yes, honey?” Sierra gave him a gentle smile.

“Can we keep the horse?”

Emory’s blue gaze darted to meet hers, a plea in them. Braden sat with his arms crossed over his chest, but his ears had pricked up.

Sierra looked at them, wanting them to understand and knowing they wouldn’t. “None of us know how to handle or care for a horse, so it wouldn’t be safe to keep him.”

Emory’s face lit up. “Cameron’s mom could teach us.”

“Honey, it’s not that simple. We can’t afford an animal that big. He probably eats as much in groceries as we do, and it would be very expensive to rent a place for him to live.”

“I could mow yards.” Anger at his sister forgotten, Braden turned a hopeful face to her. “We could help out.”

Emory jumped onto the working bandwagon. “Yeah. I could do laundry or something for the neighbors.”

Braden drilled his sister a look that said idiot idea but didn’t say anything.

Trevor bounced in his chair, eager to be a part of keeping the horse. “I could wash cars.”

“Those are great ideas, but they won’t bring in quite enough, especially since it’s getting too cold to mow lawns or wash cars.”

“You just don’t want to keep the horse, Mom,” Braden said. “I get it. End of story.”

“Honey, I’d love for you to have a horse, but when I was young I had a friend—”

Emory spoke in a helpful tone. “We know. Grandma told us about the accident.”

They knew? Wasn’t the story hers to share? “When did Grandma tell you?”

Braden’s voice took on a breezy air. “I don’t know. A while ago. Come on, Mom. We’re not going to do something dumb like your friend did.”

Defensiveness rose inside. “She didn’t do anything dumb. It was the horse that—”

“So because something bad happened to one person, your kids can never do anything fun for the rest of their lives.”

Sierra gave him a look. “Or you learn from your mistakes and help your kids to do the same.”

Braden rolled his eyes at her.

Worry drew lines across her daughter’s forehead. “Are you going to sell him?”

“Yes, Em. So we’re not going to discuss this anymore. You and Braden have homework to do.” At the chorus of groans she held her hands up. “Okay, I guess I’ll have to eat Grandma’s apple pie all by myself.”

Braden grabbed his backpack and slowly dragged it across the floor toward the stairs, annoyance in his voice. “We’re going.” Emory trotted past him up the stairs.

Trevor remained behind, one arm wrapped around her thigh. “I don’t have any homework.”

She squatted and pulled him in for a hug. “Nope, you sure don’t, bud.”

He leaned back. “Do I get a horse?”

Sierra distracted him by inching her fingers up his ribs. “What, Trev?”

He tried to talk around his giggles. “Do I get—Mom!” Her fingers found the tickle spots under his arms and he laughed, his eyes squinted shut and mouth opened wide. She found all his giggle spots, then turned on Sesame Street as the second distraction. Good old Bert and Ernie.

Now what? She had roughly forty-five minutes to figure out how she was going to get rid of a horse and not be a complete zero in her kids’ eyes.

She eyed the phone and made her next move. Five minutes later a white Mazda whipped into her driveway. Sierra hurried out the front door waving her arms to stop Elise before she could start her ritual honking for the kids.

Wide eyed, her platinum blonde friend stared, one long plum-colored nail hovering above the “ooga” horn on the dash. “What?”

“I don’t want the kids to know you’re here.”

Wicked delight spread across her perfectly made-up face. Light plum shadow matched her nails. Tomorrow, both eye shadow and nails could be green. “Let me guess! Mr. Pellum asked you out!”

“Nooooo!” Mr. Pellum was a teacher Sierra and Elise had had a crush on in seventh grade.

“Ummm … you robbed a bank and need me to watch the kids while you fly to Tahiti?”

Sierra gave her a mock-serious look. “Done?”

Elise tilted her head. “Can I get out of the car?”

Sierra glanced toward the house. All was still silent. “Yes, you may.”

Deadpan, Elise nodded and opened the door. “Then I’m done for now.” Her plump body, swathed in a creamy suit with a purple scarf draped across one shoulder, rose gracefully from the small two-seater.

Sierra closed the door for her, then leaned against it. Elise had a way of removing the extraneous and reducing a problem down to the bare essentials. “Elise, I’m in a predicament.”

“Hon, I’ve been trying to tell you that for years.”

Sierra shook her head. “I don’t think you could have seen this one coming even with your crystal ball.”

Elise gave her the spinster teacher look through narrowed eyes. “I don’t think I like the implications of that.”

Sierra held her hands out. “You are the queen of mind-reading, according to my children.”

Elise chuckled. “It’s a good thing I was just headed out for a latte break when you called. Now what’s the big emergency?” She owned a high-end clothing store for plus-sized women in downtown Eugene.

“A horse.”

Elise glanced around as if one or two might be lurking behind a tree.

“A herd of them or just one?”

“One. Full-sized. Living and breathing.”

“I believe I’m missing some pieces here. Is it moving in with you? Holding one of the children hostage? What?”

Sierra breathed out a slight chuckle and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “You’re not going to believe this, but I inherited it.”

Her friend’s eyes grew wide, emphasizing the lushly mascaraed lashes. “Like someone died and gave you their horse?”

Sierra nodded, raising her brows. “And the kids want to keep him.”

Furrows emerged across Elise’s forehead. “Who is the idiot that told them about the horse?”

Sierra tilted her head with a look that only best friends could give each other.

Elise’s perfectly painted lips smirked. “Moving along, then. Why don’t you keep it? The kids would love it. Heaven knows they deserve it.” She clapped her hands together. “Oh, oh! They could get into 4-H, and Braden could learn to barrel race. That kid would think he’d won the jackpot. Emory and Trevor could get a pig or some of those show roosters.”

Sierra let the idea machine wind down. “I don’t think so.”

“Angora rabbits?”

“No farm animals.”

Elise’s mouth perked into humorous pout. “Sierra, you’re such a spoilsport. Those kids need a pet.”

“A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.”

Diva Elise took the stage, hands on her ample hips. “Don’t tell me you didn’t want a horse growing up. Remember, I was the one who had to sit and watch National Velvet with you time ad nauseam. You’ve said yourself that Braden needs something to take his mind off the problems he’s having at school and with his dad.”

Guilt, a wheelbarrow load of it, dumped on Sierra. “You are supposed to be helping me, Elise, not making it worse. I want to get rid of this horse and …” her eyes dodged away from her friend, “… you know.”

“Mmm-hmm. And still look like Super Mom in your children’s eyes.”

Sierra nodded, but couldn’t find the nerve to say yes.

“Sierra Montgomery, those children have been to heck and back in the last couple years and you’re willing to deny them the pleasure of owning their own free horse because … because of what?”

Sierra stared at the ground for a moment, feeling a tangle of emotions rise within. She let her eyes rest on Elise’s and said quietly, “Fear? Terror? Hysteria?”

A look of puzzlement, then understanding settled on Elise’s face, smoothing away the annoyance. “Molly.”

Sierra nodded. “I won’t put my children in that kind of danger.”

Elise leaned forward and grabbed Sierra’s hands, holding them tight. “Oh, hon. That was a long time ago. Don’t let your life be ruled by the what-ifs. There’s a lot of living left to do. And your kids need to see you taking life by storm, taking chances, not hiding in the shadows.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You were voted most likely to parachute off the Empire State Building.”

Elise gave her a cheeky grin, both dimples winking at her. “We could do it tandem!”

“If you see me jump off the Empire State Building you’ll know my lobotomy was successful, because there is no way in this lifetime you’ll catch this body leaving good sense behind!” Sierra heard the words come from her own mouth and stared at her friend in wonder. “Oh, my gosh. That was so my mom.”

“It was bound to happen, hon.”

Was she serious? “You think I’m turning into her?” Sierra brought a hand to her throat and quickly dropped it. How many times had she seen her mom use the same gesture?

Elise laughed. “You need to stop fretting and just live. We all turn out like our mothers in some respect.”

“All except you. You’re nothing like Vivian.”

“Other than the drinking, smoking, and carousing, I’m exactly like her.”

Sierra lifted a brow. Her mom had rarely let her go to Elise’s house when they were growing up—and for good reason. Elise struck a pose like a fashion model. “Okay, I’m the anti-Vivian.” She gave Sierra a soft smile. “All funnin’ aside, I really think you should keep the horse.”

“I’m not keeping the horse. And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.” Sierra took a settling breath and stared at the tree over Elise’s shoulder.

“Michael still hasn’t paid?”

Elise knew more about her finances than her mom did. “He paid, but the check bounced again. So now he’s two months behind in child support.”

“Have you heard if Pollan’s is rehiring?”

“They’re not.” Jarrett’s, the local grocery store where she worked for the three years since the divorce had been recently bought out by Pollan’s. They had laid off the majority of the checkers with the possibility of rehiring some.

Elise cringed as if she was bracing herself for a blow. “And the unemployment fiasco?”

Sierra shut her eyes. “Mr. Jarrett did not pay into our unemployment insurance, so there is no benefit for us to draw from. Yes, it was illegal, and yes he will pay, but it may take months, if not years, for various lawyers and judges to beat it out of him.” She gave Elise a tired smile. “That’s the version minus all the legalese.”

“So the layoffs are final, no unemployment bennies, and you’re out of a job.”

“Momentarily. The résumé has been dusted off and polished.” She gave a wry grin.

“I wish I could hire you at Deluxe Couture, but I promised Nora fulltime work. And besides, your cute little buns would drive my clientele away.”

Sierra waved a hand over her jeans and sweatshirt. “Your clientele would outshine me any day.”

“You sell yourself far too short.” Elise glanced at the hefty rhinestone encrusted watch on her wrist. “Anything else I can do for you? Help the kids with their homework? Babysit while you sweep some tall, dark, handsome man off his feet?”

Sierra laughed. “And where is this dream man going to come from?”

Elise gave a breezy wave of her hand and opened the car door. “Oh, he’ll turn up. You’re too cute to stay single. I actually have someone in mind. Pavo Marcello. He’s a new sales rep from one of my favorite lines. I’ll see if he’s free Friday night. You aren’t doing anything, are you?”

“Hold on!” Sierra stepped in front of the car door to keep her friend from leaving. “First, I’m not looking. Second, given my history, I’m not the best judge of character. I’ve already struck out once in the man department.” She pointed to her face with both index fingers. “Not anxious to try again. Third, you just told me I’m turning into my mom, which makes me definitely not dating material.”

A twist of Elise’s lips signaled a thought. “You know, now that I think about it, I believe he has a boyfriend.” She shook her head and lowered herself into the car. “We’ll keep looking. I’m sure Sir Knight will turn up.”

Sierra shut the car door and grinned down at her friend. “And what about finding your knight?”

Elise gave her a bright smile. “Mr. Pellum is already taken. You really need to find a way to keep that horse; it’ll be your first noble sacrifice.”

“First?”

The little car backed up, and Elise spoke over the windshield. “The others don’t count.”

Sierra stared at the retreating car. There was no way she was keeping that horse.



After dinner, Sierra crept into Braden’s room. He sat on the bed intent on the Game Boy in his lap, the tinny sound of hard rock bleeding out of his earphones. She waved a hand and he glanced up. She waited and with a look of preteen exasperation he finally pulled the headphones to his shoulders.

“What, Mom?”

“I just wanted to say good night.”

“Good night.” His hands started to readjust the music back into position.

“I looked at your homework.”

“You got into my backpack? Isn’t that like against the law or something? You’re always telling us not to get into your stuff.”

She crossed her arms. Frustration and worry gnawed at her. “You lied to me about doing your assignment. Why, honey?”

He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.

She took one step and snatched the game from his hands.

“Hey!”

“I want some respect when I talk to you, Braden.”

His chin sank toward his chest, his gaze fixed on his bed, his voice low. “I didn’t want to do it.”

She sat next to him, her voice soft. “Is it too hard?”

He shrugged. “It gives me a headache when I work on it.”

“Braden, if you need help, I’d be happy to work with you after school.”

He stared at his knees and picked at a loose string of cotton on his pajama bottoms.

“I got a phone call from Mrs. Hamison today.”

His body came alert, though he didn’t look at her.

“She said you’re flunking most of your subjects, and she hasn’t seen any homework from you since school started a month ago.”

He glanced up, his jaw belligerent, but with fear in his eyes.

“What’s going on? I know school isn’t easy, but you’ve never given up before.”

“Middle school’s harder.”

She wanted to touch him, to brush the hair off his forehead and snuggle him close the way she used to when he was small. Back when a hug and a treat shared over the kitchen table was enough to bring the sparkle back to her son. “She thinks we should have your vision tested.”

“Why?”

“She’s noticed some things in class and thinks it might be helpful.”

He shrugged again. “Can I have my game back?”

“You lied to me, son. Again.”

“Sor-ry.”

“You break trust every time you choose to be dishonest. Is that what you want?”

His voice was sullen and he stared at his comforter. “No.”

She touched his leg. “What’s bothering you, honey?”

“I dunno. Can I have my game back?”

She stood up. There was a time for talking and this obviously wasn’t it. “You can have it tomorrow.”

But would tomorrow be any different?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dragonwriters from Firestorm of Dragons


So you want to know about dragon writers?

Editors:

Michele Acker: Michele writes articles and short stories for various online 'zines and newsletters. Her stories have appeared in the anthologies A Time To..., the Stygian Soul, Chimeraworld #2, and F/SF. She's a contributing author for The Complete Guild to Writing Fantasy.

Kirk Dougal: Kirk owns and operates his own business consulting firm by day and struggles mightily to help raise his twin two-year-old daughters by night. During the scant few minutes of free time he can grab each day, he is an avid reader and writer of science fiction and fantasy.

Contributors:

(Not a Complete List)

Richard Bray: Richard is a 26-year-old editor at a newspaper just outside Houston, Texas. He has been published alongside Hugo Award-winning author Neil Gaiman in the anthology “Fantasy Readers Wanted – Apply Within,” and fantasy legend Piers Anthony praised his short story “Five Minutes Longer” as one of his favorites in the fantasy anthology “Enchanted Realms.” Bray’s short story “Tell Me, Lover, Are You Lonely?” will appear later this year in “Strange Stories of Sand and Sea,” published by Fine Tooth Press. He runs a 2,100-member online fantasy writing forum at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Fantasy_Writing.

Eric Diehl: Eric likes to make stuff. Tangible things—those that you might hold in your hand, and ephemeral things—those that elude form. He’s built furniture and guitars, he’s screen-printed t-shirts, and he’s written software and designed websites. He harbors a life-long passion for motorcycling—occasionally teaching a safety class to newbies both young and old—and he persists in being confounded by the acoustic guitar. But it remains that most powerful and elusive of creations that he stands most in awe of—the story. Ink on paper, black on white, a collection of simple syllables woven into an infinitely complex journey. He's written travel articles and reviews in Rider, RV Companion (since demised), and Adventure Motorcycle magazines. Also a short in the Florida Horror anthology by Carnifex Press. A SFF novel is in final editing stages, and several other shorts are making the rounds. Learn more at www.ericdiehl.com.


Photobucket

Karina Fabian: After being a straight-A student, Karina now cultivates Fs: Family, Faith, Fiction and Fun. From Nuns in Space to a down-and out Faerie dragon working off a geas by St. George, her work takes quirky twists that keep her amused--and others, too. Winner of the EPPIE award for best sci-fi and the Mensa Owl for best fiction, she writes stories and novels about Vern, the dragon detective. (learn more at www.dragoneyepi.net.) In addition to juggling the stories from at least three different universes, Karina is President of the Catholic Writers' Guild, owner of Catholic Writers Online, and teaches writing seminars on-line. She and her husband Rob are also the skillful editors of Infinite God Infinite Space and Leaps of Faith (also being toured in November, just released). For more about Karina and her worlds, go to www.fabianspace.com.

Tina Morgan: At the age of four, Tina's mother recorded her telling a story of an unfortunate princess. Her love of storytelling has not diminished with time and Tina takes great pleasure in creating fantasy worlds and life-like characters. The managing editor for Fiction Factor (http://www.fictionfactor.com) and editor-in-chief of The Fractured Publisher (http://www.fracturedpublisher.com), Tina Morgan enjoys researching and learning more about the art and business of writing. She's a contributing author to The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, and The Companion Guilde to Writing Fantasy currently available with Dragon Moon Press. She's also contributed to The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fitction which features chapters from Piers Anthony and Orson Scott Card.

Bob Nailor: Bob is a retired government worker who was on the cutting edge of technology as a Systems Manager but now enjoys being an end user. Having raised four sons he enjoys spoiling his six grandchildren and weaving a tale by the campfire to excite, thrill, scare or fascinate them while on travel enjoying the sights of our great country. He still remembers his first critique, 3rd grade, of his poem, Angels and Volcanoes. His first rejection was from Children's Highlights while a sophomore in high school. Today he is published at many websites and is a contributing author to Companion Guide to Writing Fantasy and The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction.

He was a columnist for a small, local newspaper when he lived outside of Washington, DC and was the poetry editor and production manager for The Emporium Gazette (www.emporiumgazette.com), an online writer's ezine. He currently is the coordinator for the Northwest Ohio Writers' Conference (www.nwowc.com) which keeps him quite busy.

Kim Richards: Born and raised in the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, Kim now resides in Northern California where she writes full time. Her preferred genres are horror, science fiction, fantasy and erotica, though she has had a children's book published and non-fiction articles as well. When her fingers aren't busy tapping on the computer keyboard, she enjoys reading and movies in her preferred genres. She is a costumer and regularly participates in a Live Action Role Play group called Amtgard (for over 18 years). Her sons are grown men now, of whom she is extremely proud.

Besides editing for Eternal Press, she also edits reviews for MyShelf book reviews and produces the monthly newsletter for the women's online horror community, Pretty-Scary, along with a quarterly newsletter for her local neighborhood association (circulation approx: 3000 members). She also moderates chats for The Writer's Chatroom online. All this is supervised by a Tonkinese cat named Shemay. http://www.kim-richards.com

Sarah R. Suleski: Sarah is a 23-year-old library assistant, which she views as very fitting work for an aspiring author, if not entirely practical for those who enjoy having money. She has lived all her life in Wisconsin, USA, yet exactly 86% of that life has been spent entirely inside her own head. If you would like to know more about this exciting person, you may read more about her personal life than you are ever sure to care for at her blog, http://sarahlitarose.livejournal.com. Also, she is currently the proud owner of two websites where you can read many of her stories: the aptly named http://srsuleski.com and the more curiously named Iridescent Rhinoceri (http://irhinoceri.livejournal.com), for she believes in saturating the internet with her undeniably brilliant storytelling and fair to middling prose. Firestorm of Dragons marks her first time in print, not counting childhood endeavors with friends and their word processors. She is very excited about this, and plans to quite possibly buy more copies of the anthology than anyone, once she discovers the gold that is sure to be hidden somewhere in the basement.

John Teehan: John is a writer, artist, and musician living in Providence Rhode Island. His short fiction appears in a variety of anthologies including Men Writing Science Fiction As Women (DAW) and Low Ports (Meisha Merlin). He was a contributing author for The Complete Guide To Writing Fantasy (Dragonmoon Press), and has published poetry and non-fiction in several SpecFic markets.

He is the current Production Manager and Art Director for The SFWA Bulletin and has also provided layout and cover art for over fifty books including Forgotten Gems From The Twilight Zone Vols 1 and 2, Welcome, Foolish Mortals...The Life and Voices of Paul Frees, The Twilight Zone Scripts of Jerry Sohl, and William Nolan's Have You Seen the Wind?.

John plays the Irish tenor banjo, bodhran, 5-string banjo, mandolin, and guitar.
He's a huge movie buff, goes fishing before dawn, and dabbles in watercolor and cartooning on warm summer evenings. He was recently married to a wonderful woman who puts up with all of this.

Now Available at Amazon.com!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dragon Trail(er)

Karina Fabian, one of the authors of the stories in A Firestorm of Dragons, an anthology of stories about--dragons!--has put together a nice little video trailer to present a brief glimpse into the fantastic creatures abiding within the pages of this entertaining volume.


Firestorm of Dragons

So you want to know about dragons?

Start with "Dragonscaling!," a tongue-in-cheek look at a future where the world's most extreme sport involves the use of genetically engineered creatures. Continue on to read how dragons are kept out of sight in modern Hong Kong in "Dragonkeeper," before turning the page for a humorous look at the importance of listening to one's mother in "Lessons."

"The Druid's Dragon" reveals a possible connection between the ancient people and an enslaved dragon, before "Dragon Eye, P.I." twists all conventions and makes a dragon the lead in a 1940s-style detective story. "Poison Bird" brings the reader back to modern day for a coming-of-age story told through the eyes of the protagonist's boyfriend.

"A Reptile at the Reunion" pulls together two things that most people fear: dragons and high school reunions. A hunter learns compassion for his prey in "Dragon Blood" while "No Time for Dragons" takes a humorous tone when an example is made of dragon who is a pesky door-to-door salesman.

"For Your Eyes Only" reveals the power of devotion when lovers encounter a dragon. Both sides of a human and dragon interaction, with wildly different conclusions, are examined in "Shattered Dreams" before the influence of hatred and the cost of sacrifice battle each other in "A Darkness of Spirit."

A Firestorm of Dragons finishes with a trilogy of stories depicting some possible ends of dragonkind. "Dragon Fruit" reveals the happiest of conclusions when a symbiotic relationship between humans and dragons leaves both to lead their own lives. Dragons continue to live on throughout time in "A Dragon's Dawn," though they are relegated to lonely and unfulfilled lives. "Inside the Cavern" is the ending no one wishes for the majestic beings, their race dying in obscurity under man's unyielding pressure.


These a brief summaries of the tales that await you in A Firestorm of Dragons, an anthology edited by Michele Acker and Kirk Dougal and published by Dragon Moon Press. Although the stories are not necessarily all Christian world view, they are suitable for young adults as well as adults, and could even be read to some children.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A FIRST Look at ENOCH by Alton Gansky



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!






Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Enoch

Realms (October 2, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Alton Gansky is the author of twenty-one published novels and six nonfiction works. He has been a Christie Award finalist (A Ship Possessed) and an Angel Award winner (Terminal Justice). He holds a BA and MA in biblical studies and has served as senior pastor for three Baptist churches in California, with a total of over twenty years in pulpit ministry. He and his wife live in the High Desert area of Southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 307 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 2, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159979344X
ISBN-13: 978-1599793443

My take:
Unfortunately, I was slow on this one and didn't get a copy of the book yet. I really wish I had, especially since I see Alton Gansky referred to on many blogs by writers that I respect. I have read quite a bit of praise for his speculative fiction and spiritual content in thrilling stories. This first chapter is all I know about Enoch, other than some reviews on Amazon. Between the reviews and this chapter I got enough of a glimpse to know that I want to read the whole story.

It is soon obvious that this character in the story is unfamiliar with his surroundings. He doesn't even know what a road is. Does he have amnesia? What's the deal? He talks in a way that would be unusual in Texas. If you want to know a little more, like I did, check out the reviews on Amazon. They don't give away the story, I don't think, but there's more information to base a decision on. I can tell you that I am adding it too my wish list on the fast track. I really want to read this one.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


He first thought of his feet.

It seemed an odd first thought, but there it was. His gaze drifted to a pair of soft-topped shoes, each with a symbol stitched to the side.

"N." He wondered why anyone would stitch a letter on footwear.

He raised a foot, then wiggled it. The shoe felt good. He dug a toe in the sandy dirt, then raised his head. A field surrounded him. No crops, no buildings, no people. Just a wide expanse of rugged scrub that shivered in the cold wind.

A full-circle turn revealed nothing but the same: miles of empty land. He blinked against the wind and the bits of dirt and dust it carried. To the west the sun lowered itself to the horizon. In the opposite direction, darkness crawled up the sky, keeping pace as if the descending orb pulled a curtain of night behind it.

Turning to face the sun again, he saw a break in the expanse of near-barren ground. At its edge ran a thin fence. He moved toward it, amused at the soft crunch the earth made with each step of his N-shoes.

Something scampered to his right. A covey of quail sprinted away and then took to the air, flying a short distance before making contact with the earth again. The sight made him smile.

Henick wrapped his arms around himself to ward off the chilling breeze. The material of his multicolored shirt felt soft against his arms and palms. He kept his gaze down, protecting his eyes from the sun's glare and looking up only long enough to get his bearings and check for holes or rocks that might cause him to stumble.

The fence was a simple series of metal stakes supporting four strands of metal wire punctuated with evenly spaced barbs. He extended a finger, touched one of the points, and frowned. The knife-sharp tip drew a drop of blood. He stuck the offended finger in his mouth. A quick scan of the fence's length revealed no gate.

A short distance from the fence ran a wide, smooth, black surface with a series of white dashes down the middle. He marveled at its unerring straightness.

He returned his attention to the fence. He wanted to be on the other side but preferred to arrive there with skin and clothing intact. Placing a hand on the top strand, he pushed down. The metal wire moved, but not enough to make straddling the thing acceptable. He tried again, this time using both hands. The wire fence gave more but still too little.

Henick decided on a different approach. He stepped to the nearest metal upright and tested it. It looked old, as if it had spent a lifetime stuck in that one spot. Seizing it with both hands and careful to avoid the stinging wire, he shook the thin metal pole. It wiggled. He leaned into it and then pulled back, repeating the motion twenty or thirty times. The metal felt cold against his bare hands, and gritty rust tinted his flesh.

When he had worked the pole loose, he lifted its base from the ground, then moved to the next upright and reenacted the procedure. With two posts loose, Henick could step across the barrier without injury.

Once on the other side, he replaced the posts, stomping the surrounding dirt with his foot until the soil was as compact as he could make it. In time, weather would reseal the posts to their original strength.

The exertion had warmed him enough to raise a film of perspiration on his brow and beneath the black hair that hung to his shoulders. The breeze found each moist area and chilled it. He could expect a cold night.

Stepping to the middle of the black path, he bent and touched the surface. It appeared smooth but felt coarse beneath his fingers. The black material radiated gentle warmth. He straightened and looked up and down the long road. It seemed to have no end in either direction. Deciding that one direction was as good as the other, Henick began to walk, choosing his course so the wind would be at his back and not in his face.

When the last of the sun's disk fell beneath the horizon, Henick had made two or three miles. He passed the time by counting the white dashes in the middle of the strange path or wondering about the letter N on his shoes. He liked the shoes; they made walking easier.

A quarter moon replaced the sun in the sky but offered little light. Soon the final light would follow its source below the distant horizon. If he had remained in the open field, he would have had to stop his journey. Walking over uncertain and irregular terrain with no light would be foolish, but the hard path with its white lines made it possible for him to continue.

Just before the sun said its final good-bye, Henick saw a black and white sign with a puzzling, irregular shape and the words Ranch Road 1232. Sometime later he saw a sign that read Don't Mess with Texas.

The air moved from chilly to cold, but the breeze had settled.

Henick kept moving.

Lights and a rumble approached from behind. The light split the darkness and gave Henick a shadow that stretched impossibly long before him. He stopped and turned, raising a hand to shield his eyes against the glare.

The roar grew louder. The lights neared.

A sudden blaring assaulted his ears, but Henick stood his ground.

"What are you? Nuts?"

The voice came from behind the glare. A large metal device pulled alongside. The words pickup truck entered Henick's mind.

The vehicle stopped. "Have you plumb lost your mind, boy? I coulda run you down and not even known I hit ya. What are you thinking?"

In the dim light, Henick could see two people seated in the truck: a man in his sixties and a woman of the same age.

"Go easy on him, Jake. He looks confused. Maybe he's lost." The woman's voice rode on tones of kindness.

"That it, boy? You lost?"

"I am just walking," Henick said.

"In the dark? Where you headed?"

Henick thought for a moment. "That way." He pointed down the long stretch of road.

"Ain't nuthin' that way but Blink, and there ain't much reason for going there unless that's your home. I'm guessin' it ain't. Pretty small town; I think I'd have seen you before."

"I don't live there."

The man the woman called Jake exited the truck and eyed Henick. "It's a bit cold to be out in nuthin' but blue jeans and a flannel shirt. It's supposed to drop into the forties tonight."

"It is true. I am cold."

"Give him a ride, Jake." The woman had slid closer to the driver side door. "We can't leave him out here. He's liable to step in some pothole and break a leg."

"More likely he'd step on a rattler. They like the warm asphalt."

"Either way, Jake, we can't leave the man out here."

"All right, all right, just keep your shoes on." Jake looked at Henick. "Turn around."

Henick raised an eyebrow.

"Turn around, boy. I jus' wanna make sure you ain't packin'."

"Packin'?"

"Totin' a gun. You sure you haven't wandered off from some kinda home for the slow?"

"Jake!"

"All right, Eleanor, I don't mean no disrespect." He motioned for Henick to turn in place. Henick did. "OK, here's the deal. I'll give you a ride, but that's all. Me and the wife were going into town for a meal. Friday night is our evening out. Been doing that for thirty-five years."

"I would like a ride."

"Yeah, well, don't have no room for you up front, so you'll have to ride in the back. I got some blankets to keep the wind off you. It's the best I can offer."

"Thank you." Henick climbed into the bed of the truck and leaned against the cab.

"Blankets are behind my seat. I'll get 'em."

A few moments later, Henick, snug in two wool blankets, turned his face heavenward, gazed at the stars, and wondered what a "Texas" was.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

INFIDEL, a graphic novel from Ted Dekker is Teen FIRST teaser



It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!




and his book:


Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ted is the son of missionaries John and Helen Dekker, whose incredible story of life among headhunters in Indonesia has been told in several books. Surrounded by the vivid colors of the jungle and a myriad of cultures, each steeped in their own interpretation of life and faith, Dekker received a first-class education on human nature and behavior. This, he believes, is the foundation of his writing.

After graduating from a multi-cultural high school, he took up permanent residence in the United States to study Religion and Philosophy. After earning his Bachelor's Degree, Dekker entered the corporate world in management for a large healthcare company in California. Dekker was quickly recognized as a talent in the field of marketing and was soon promoted to Director of Marketing. This experience gave him a background which enabled him to eventually form his own company and steadily climb the corporate ladder.

Since 1997, Dekker has written full-time. He states that each time he writes, he finds his understanding of life and love just a little clearer and his expression of that understanding a little more vivid. To see a complete list of Dekker's work, visit The Works section of TedDekker.com.

Here are some of his latest titles:

Chosen (The Lost Books, Book 1) (The Books of History Chronicles)

Adam

Black: The Birth of Evil (The Circle Trilogy Graphic Novels, Book 1)

Saint


Product Details

List Price:$15.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595546049
ISBN-13: 978-1595546043




A few thoughts from me: Infidel is well-drawn and easy to read. Since I didn't read the original novel, I can't really compare the two. For those who have followed Ted Dekker's books up to this point, it probably will be a great treat unless your personal images in your head don't match those of the graphic artist. I have always enjoyed certain graphic art, in particular DC comics (yeah, I'm an old fan of the Justice League of America). Graphic novels have a couple of advantages, as I see it. First, it's a picture book! It really is easier to read when there are pictures to go with the narrative. Secondly, they are not as wordy as ordinary novels (not that I could ever call Dekker's novels ordinary), and therefore can be read in a considerably shorter time period. Those are good selling points for just about everyone in our rushed lifestyles, but especially good for reluctant readers. I think a main target audience would be those teen guys who hate to read.

This is the second graphic novel I have read from the Ted Dekker books. Like the first one, Red, it leaves me a little confused, most likely because the format condenses the story to a point that I feel there is a lot missing. But then again, it might just be me. Even with Dekker's full novels that I read, I felt it was all a whirlwind that moved faster sometimes than I could follow. Like I said, it might just be me. I am certain that Dekker's myriad fans will love it. I give it a high rating, so you might especially want to consider it and the first in the series as gifts for this Christmas.


AND NOW...THE FIRST TWO PAGES:

(Click Pictures to Zoom!)



Thursday, November 13, 2008

LEAGUE OF SUPERHEROES on FIRST



It is time to play a Wild Card!






Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:



League of Superheroes

Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Stephen Leon Rice is a Christian writer of science fiction and fantasy. He
has three short stories in Light at the Edge of Darkness, an anthology
of Biblical speculative fiction (2007). The three stories reflect his interests:
speculative theology, language, philosophy, and bad jokes. He has
a B.A. in Linguistics and Foreign Languages and an M.A. in English
(Professional Writing and Editing). He works as a freelance journalist,
writer and editor, and he is fond of old books and early Christian thinking.
He also belongs to several writing groups and is known for swift,
accurate edits and critiques. His work emphasizes the need to rely on
God rather than on ourselves and models a Christian worldview.

Visit Stephen Rice's blog: Back to the Mountains and his League of Superheroes Series wiki at ansric.pbwiki.com.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 9.95
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Writers Cafe Press, The (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193428405X
ISBN-13: 978-1934284056

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



It was Allen’s sister Clarice who found the genie that turned the Mad Scientists into superheroes. It wasn’t like it was a stroke of genius or anything, though. At the time we figured it was just dumb luck. Of course, Charlie said different, but he always had to be cosmic about stuff.

Now, if our parents were normal, none of the rest of us—Charlie, Rod, and I—would have been at Allen and Clarice’s house, but our parents seemed to think that if we were going to have a club meeting, we should all be in the same room, not running it over the Net. It’s not like they were all Neandertals or anything; they used the Net as much as we did. But they thought biking over to Allen’s house would build character. Some parents are like that.

It wasn’t a surprise when Clarice burst in on our Mad Scientists meeting—she always found some excuse—but when she said she wanted Allen to override the parental controls for her chat room, well, that was a new one. Allen just looked at her the way he usually did whenever she asked him to delete her name from the school records so she wouldn’t have to go, but this time she wasn’t taking no for an answer. It didn’t stop him from trying.

“Look,” he said, “even if I wanted to change the settings, the main security is at the Web site itself. I’d have to hack their system, and that would probably be a crime. Besides, why do you want to shut off security anyway?”

“There’s a girl who wants to know my real name. She’s really nice, but she’s kind of sad, too. I’d like to cheer her up.”

Houston, we have liftoff, I thought. But this was Allen Peters, not the more obnoxious Rod Davies, and he had almost as much patience as Charlie. So he just sighed and shook his head. But I think we were all wondering what kind of scam Clarice had run into. The police or even the FBI might get involved, and we might get a reward if the guy in the chat room was a real prize. Clarice couldn’t understand that, of course; she was just a kid. So when Rod suggested finding out who the guy really was, she didn’t take it quietly.

“She’s not a guy,” she said. “Her name is Genie. Her handle is Pandora, and there’s some tagline like ‘out of the box.’ She’s real nice.”

“If she was a genie, she’d be out of the lamp,” Rod pointed out. He could be annoying that way, but we didn’t mind as long as he was doing it to her. Actually, I thought about asking if the genie had light brown hair, but then Clarice would have asked why, and I wouldn’t have known, and then I would’ve had to grow old listening to her keep asking why. It wasn’t worth it.

“Look,” Allen said with brotherly condescension, “don’t you remember what Mom and Dad told you about stuff like this? Don’t they pound it into you at school? You never give someone in a chat room your actual name, address, or anything else they can track you with. And Rod’s right, for once: you don’t even know if this ‘Genie’ is a girl. You might be talking with some dirty old man somewhere.”

“Kidchat checks every member,” Clarice protested. “You can’t even join without proving you’re a kid, so it’s safe.”

“Okay, so he’s a dirty old man with a little girl to help him get into places that are kids only.”

“Are you going to look, or just keep lecturing me?”

We all knew that tone. The next step was a full-blown tantrum, and if their folks came in at the wrong moment—which they usually did—we’d all be nailed for child abuse. So we trooped off to her room and had a look.

To begin with, whoever ran the site was sick. People who do kids’ sites are always either edgy or cute, and this guy was trying to do both, which meant that it combined the nausea of cuteness with the speed of attitude. If it was a dirty old man on the other end, he had to be desperate in every sense.

But anyway, there was an anime-type, big-eyed cartoon girl looking out of a cowl. She had a concerned look, no doubt because Clarice had been gone longer than expected. To the right of her, an animated box opened, and the name ‘Pandora’ floated out of it. Pretty good for a kid. The on-screen data gave her age as seven, which made her a couple years below Clarice and about half as old as the rest of us. A speech balloon appeared, and the computer read off the words in one of Kidchat’s user-selectable voices.

“Goodcheer! Are you back yet? Is everything all right?”

“Goodcheer,” yet! Was that Clarice’s idea or a gift from her mom? But Clarice (or “Goodcheer”) plopped down in her chair, fiddled peevishly with her mike, and replied, “I’m back. My brother doesn’t believe you’re really a little girl, so I don’t think he’s going to be any help.”

The cartoon face frowned. “That’s too bad. Can’t you use a riddle or pun as I did to tell you my real name?”

“I don’t think so.”

The face took on a thoughtful expression. Then it said, “Open another window and search for the relevant data. Do a search on your first name, for example; then send me links to the first few pages that come up, and I’ll locate the shared name. Or you may find an actress, model, or character with the same name and refer me to her Web site.”

It was probably just the animation, but I somehow felt like Pandora, or Genie, or whatever his or her name really was, actually did have to think this up. It made no sense at all, though: it was the obvious way to handle the problem, and an experienced pervert would have thought of it long before. But then, he or she was also using words a bit beyond “Genie’s” supposed age level.

“Wait a minute,” Allen said, grabbing his sister’s hand as she reached for the mouse. “We want to know who you really are.”

To our surprise and Allen’s annoyance, his demand was ignored not by Genie but by the Web site itself: his voice wasn’t registered, so Kidchat wouldn’t transmit what he said. The site’s controls were certainly doing their job. Clarice wound up relaying the message, which didn’t help his mood.

“I can’t tell you here,” the cartoon girl replied. “We could go to another chat room.”

“Why didn’t she do that with Clarice and leave us out of it?” Rod asked.

“This is the only chat room I’m allowed to use,” Clarice retorted. “Of course, if Allen wants to use another chat room . . .”

I didn’t think of it at the time, but later on I developed a strong suspicion that this was what Clarice had been after all along. I suppose I should ask her sometime.

Anyway, Allen scowled at the suggestion, but he gave Genie the address of a place where we sometimes had private chats instead of regular club meetings. He had the site located himself a moment later, and sure enough, someone named Genie was there already, and with the same animation and character avatar.

“All right, then, what is your name?” Allen asked.

“My name is Genie,” came the reply. This time it wasn’t a filtered, canned voice—or if it was, it was far better done than Kidchat’s.

“Okay, but how old are you?”

“I am not sure. I do not remember when I was born. Do you remember when you were born?”

If the audio was accurate, this was a genuine question, not sarcasm, and that seemed to bother Allen more than an outright insult would have done.

“Of course not,” he said. “No one remembers when he was born.”

There was a kind of satisfaction in the voice this time. “That is what I thought. First memories occur usually no less than one year after birth.”

“But your parents could tell you when you were born,” Allen said, and he almost seemed to accept that he was speaking to a little girl after all.

“I do not have any parents,” the voice said sadly. “Or at least, if I do, I do not know who they are.”

I can’t answer for Allen, but I was beginning to feel like a bully by then. If this was a man, he was a genius.

“Well, you can talk, though,” Allen persisted, even if he did look a bit embarrassed. “Are you in school?”

“No. I had not thought about schooling as a useful datum, but I do not believe I have ever been to school. Nor do I find reference to plans to send me. I suppose I have private tutors. I do know a lot.”

Allen smiled at this. All kids think they know a lot. “Do you know how much two plus two is?”

“Two plus two is four,” came the answer. “But I can also calculate roots, trigonometric functions—anything mathematical, really.”

Allen glanced back at us helplessly. It didn’t take much to get answers out of a computer, and if hers had a really good calculator available, math was a pointless test. Unless we turned Rod loose on her—but that really would have been child abuse. We needed something else to gauge her knowledge, so I decided to try my hand at fixing her background—and in my case, that meant checking her language proficiency.

“¿Comprende Ud. esto?” I asked. “¿Qué lengua hablo ahora?”

“Ud. habla español,” she answered easily. “¡Qué divertido! Ya no he contemplado—”

“Kore wa nani ga desu ka?”

“Nihongo ga desu. Anata ga rippa na—”



“How many languages do you know?” I asked, interrupting her. Spanish was no big deal, but Japanese was less common. Perhaps she had grown up in an old-fashioned melting pot neighborhood and picked up a smattering of several languages. Her answer dashed that possibility, though.

“The question is ambiguous. I should be able to respond fluently in at least twenty-three languages, and I could probably understand or make myself understood in ninety-two others. In theory, I should be able to identify roughly two thousand languages, though the matter is made more complicated by questions of dialect. For example, I can use Modern Literary Arabic fluently, but my ability at Libyan, Lebanese, or Iraqi Arabic would be rather less impressive.”

“You—you’re joking!” I stammered.

“No, though I am capable of joking. I know seventeen thousand, three hundred and fifty-four jokes, with minor variations.”

“Are you sure you’re even human? You talk like a computer in a sci-fi video.”

“I am human,” came the reply, and again the emotion in the audio feed caught me unprepared. She sounded slightly angry and very hurt. It was obviously a sensitive topic, and once more I felt like a bully.

“I’m sorry. We’re just trying to figure out who you are. You don’t sound like any little girl I’ve ever met.” I paused briefly, but she gave no answer, so I continued, “Do you have any other friends?”

“Only Uncle. He is kind to me and always tries to smile for me, though sometimes I think he cries. I cry too, but I cannot do it on the outside, the way he does. Perhaps it does not count if you only do it inside.”

“Sometimes it counts more if you only do it inside,” I said, and maybe I was a sucker, but I had to fight to keep mine inside. A muffled snort from behind me revealed that Rod wasn’t buying it, but at least he wasn’t grilling her either. “Tell me more about your uncle,” I continued.

“He is a nice man. He has gray hair, and he always tries to take time for me. In a way, I guess he is more like a grandfather. I like him. I wonder whether he could be my father—or my grandfather. Anyway, he is the one who hooked me up to the Internet. He said that I needed to get out more. That is why he signed me up for Kidchat. He said that I was not to talk too much to strangers, but Goodcheer is always so kind and friendly. I have learned a lot from her. He was right: it is good to have another girl to talk to.”

“Don’t you go outdoors?” I asked.

“No. I cannot go outdoors. The people here always want me to learn things, not play. Uncle is the only one who plays with me. He is the one who called me Genie and Pandora. He looks so sad. But they are good names. Genie is a regular girl’s name, but I know that he was making a pun on the jinni from Moslem mythology. Jinni are powerful spirits, often held captive to keep them from hurting people or to force them to help people. I do feel like a captive spirit here, though I doubt that I am powerful. And I would not hurt anyone—in fact, I would gladly help people if I knew how. I wish I could make Uncle happy, so he would smile all the time.

“As for Pandora, she was a woman in Greek mythology. Her curiosity led her to open a box and let loose all the miseries that plague mankind. But she also released hope. I do not think that I can release plagues on mankind, but perhaps I can bring hope somehow.”

“Pandora also means ‘all-gifted,’” I said. “Your uncle must think a lot of you to associate you with powerful, gifted beings.”

“Yes,” she replied, and her voice definitely sounded pleased. “The people here call me CHMI, but that is not a pretty name at all. They don’t care about me the way Uncle and Goodcheer do. That’s why I’m glad they don’t know about all I can do. Even Uncle doesn’t know, but he worries so much. I don’t want to trouble him. And I am a good girl.”

“I’m sure you are,” I said, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Wait a minute,” Rod interrupted. “You keep talking about ‘the people here.’ Who are they? And for that matter, where are you?”

“I do not know.” There was definite distress in the voice, and even though Rod was bigger than I was, I thought about giving him a nudge that would bend him over to my size. “I mostly just read. I only recently began to see and hear them. They don’t know that yet. Uncle knows. That’s why he talks to me.”

The tension faded from her voice as she spoke, and I determined to keep it away. “It’s all right, Genie. We know enough about you for the moment. Maybe Allen can help find out more—he’s good with computers. But for now, it’s enough that you’re Genie.”

“Thank you. And who are you?” she asked.

“My name is Tom. Tom Reilly. My friends and I have a club, and we meet at Clarice’s and Allen’s house.”

“What kind of club is it?”

“Well, mostly we just like to hang around together. But we’re interested in science, and we’re a bit unorthodox, so we decided to call ourselves the Mad Scientists. We got the idea from a book.”

“Mad scientists? Do you want to blow up the world or make monsters?”

“Well, we’ve blown up parts of school, and some people say we’re monsters all by ourselves, but . . . Well, I guess you could say we’re good boys in spite of it all.”

Genie laughed. “That sounds like fun. I know a lot about science, too. In fact, that’s what the people here are teaching me. I’ve already learned a lot more than they think. Uncle wants me to act as though I don’t understand. I don’t think he likes them. But I do understand. What are you working on right now?”

The question caught me off-guard, and I said, “We’re playing around with researching . . . well, superheroes, I guess you’d say. You know, the science involved: could someone really do something like they do in comics?”

“Ah, I see. I do not read comics myself, but I have heard of them. I could do a search on the subject.”

Now, I admit that it felt good to be taken seriously (even by a girl) on such an off-the-wall subject, so I volunteered a few sites for her to check when she had a free moment. I had no idea what “a free moment” meant to her. It took very little time to find out.

“This is interesting,” she said a few seconds later, “but also rather confusing. In some ways these people seem to have very little grasp of physics. Yet several of the ideas are intriguing. Were you going to try to replicate these effects yourselves?”

“What do you mean?” Again, I can’t speak for the others, but her question was so unexpected it made her reading speed seem trivial by comparison.

“Superhuman strength and speed, invisibility—what they call ‘super powers.’ It could be challenging.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” Rod said. “Technology won’t be able to deal with such things for a century or more.”

“But they aren’t that difficult. For example, I should be able to put together a power suit such as Titan uses in just a week or so, and an invisibility suit such as Darklight uses would only take a week longer, I think.”

“If you can do that, you really are a genie,” I said, trying to glare Rod into silence.

“Thank you,” she replied, clearly quite pleased. “Now, if you will tell me where to have it delivered . . . ”