Monday, June 30, 2008

Suggested Summer Reading List for Young Adults, Part One

I started working on this list near the beginning of June because I've read several books that I thought would be exciting to teens. However, since I hadn’t been following the Christian scene for a while, at least in fiction, I thought I would ask some other people for their opinions. In particular, I asked some authors and teens. Wow, was I overwhelmed with responses! The truth is, I got such a variety of responses that I haven’t been able to get it all together for an article. So here it is the beginning of July already. If I don’t go ahead, it will be too late for any summer reading. Well, this certainly won’t be an exhaustive list, but I hope it may lead my teen friends and parents of teens to some enjoyable reading for those summer days.

To begin with, here are some books I personally liked. I realize we are all different, but I’ll include a synopsis and a few notes of my own.

1. Flashpoint: Book One of the Underground by Frank Creed. Not specifically YA, but one that guys over 14 should really enjoy.

Persecution in Chicago has reached the Flashpoint. In the year 2036, all nations are run by a one-world government. The One State has only one threat: Fundamentalist terrorists. The One State has declared that every Fundamentalist is a terrorist.
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.

You can read the first three chapters here: http://frankcreed.com/flashpoint.html

2. Never Ceese by Sue Dent. Classified as YA although lots of adults (me included) like it.

A vampire . . .
A werewolf . . .
Can two who were wronged make it right?
By their faith.
A determined young werewolf, acting on her long-held wish to free herself of her curse, teams up with a skeptical vampire who can no longer admit that having his curse removed is something he wants.

Will Cassie Felts be able to help them, as her grandmother implored her to do, or will they suffer at the hands of a radical and evil stem cell researcher?


Excerpt here: http://www245.pair.com/sdent/newtext.htm


3. Seabird by Sherry Thompson. I really love this fantasy. The heroine is a girl, but I think guys will like it, too. In the same vein as The Chronicles of Narnia, but not as low a reading level with a bit more intensity and violence. Intended for a wider audience than just Christians.


When high school senior Cara Marshall is transported to Narenta, she is proclaimed champion of its people against the daemagos--a cadre of sorcerers. Amid the grateful welcomes, Cara protests that neither the title nor the mission are hers.
"They've got the wrong person and they're going to get me killed because they won't admit it." Is Cara's world-napping a mistake? The daemagos don't care as long as she's dead.
Pursued by ruthless werewright warriors, vicious serpent-hawks and the sorcerous daemagos, how can she know in whom to place her trust when even humans lurk as assassins in the shadows? As she races across an eerie and perilous ancient world, can Cara find the courage and strength to enter the heart of evil in order to save her companions and the Tethran kingdom?
Grounded firmly in the tradition of C.S. Lewis, this character-driven first installment of The Narentan Tumults is an epic tale of adventure, courage and faith.

Excerpt: http://khivasmommy.googlepages.com/seabirdextracts


4. Gentle Journey by Elaine Lyons Bach. Again, not specifically for teens, but it is about an older teen girl. It is set in the time period of Jane Austen, and written very much like her style. I truly believe anyone who loves Jane Austen will love this book.

Eden Barret longs to help society's downtrodden with her talent as an artist. When her initial plans fail, as a last resort, she finds work as a governess in the home of Colin Ashton, Seventh Earl of Edmund. There she hopes to continue to pursue painting in her spare time. Her beliefs and her choice to rescue two climbing boys from their abusive master, yet refusal to give testimony against the sweep cause her to cross swords with her handsome employer more than once, putting her employment in jeopardy. Her charge, Diana, is an intelligent, though lonely preteen, confused about what she perceives as her power to cause things to happen - bad things. Though diametrically opposite in beliefs, against her better judgment, Eden is attracted to the thoughtful and thought provoking Lord Edmund. All signs point to the fact, however, that Colin is courting his beautiful and sweet natured neighbor Cassandra Bradley. Diana is doing her best to keep her brother and Eden apart by encouraging him to believe Eden is secretly engaged to the handsome officer who brought her to Chadilane. Cassandra's military brother forms a tender for Eden while his family stays at the manor for a house party. Eden must defend herself when this suitor forces himself upon her, only to be placed in greater peril when the sweep returns with a secret grudge. Lives are transformed in this adventure of passionate faith and enduring love.

Excerpt: http://outskirtspress.com/webpage.php?ISBN=1598008862

5. Asulon: The Sword of Fire Book One by William R. McGrath. This is a wonderful coming-of-age book that the guys should like. Not just teens; in fact, it has depth in many areas that most teens will not understand, yet it is a great adventure full of action that all guys will go for. Great description with martial arts but fantasy. Asulon is a “manly” novel if I ever read one. Hunting, survival in the wilderness, adventure, coming-of-age for a young prince, martial arts, assassins, intrigue, political hijinks, secret society, strategic warfare, swordplay, danger on every hand, the future of a country and the whole world at risk. With great detail and relish, Bill McGrath has written a fantasy filled with elements that are obviously close to his heart, creating a compelling tale of a young prince who is embroiled in a war of epic, even Biblical, proportions. It is not just a war of human enemies but Abaddon versus the forces of Heaven fighting for the souls of men.
Excerpt:
http://www.theswordoffire.com/samples.htm

6. Across the Wide River and The Light Across the River by Stephanie Reed. Historical Underground Railroad. Reading level appropriate for middle school. Fiction based very closely on true history. Very engaging stories based on real life abolitionist John Rankin and his family, whose house still stands in Ripley, Ohio as a museum to the work of the Underground Railroad. He and his family risked beating and arrest for hiding and helping many runaway slaves find their way to freedom.

Excerpts:
http://kregelhomeschool.blogspot.com/2007/08/lesson-on-slavery-from-across-wide.html
and
http://kregelfiction.blogspot.com/2008/01/sneak-peak-at-light-across-river-sequel.html

7. The Seed of Seerling by Amy Kennedy. This one is being released today (July 1), and I haven’t even got a review up for it yet (coming very soon). Although the main characters are teens, well, the heroine is, it is actually more of an adult fantasy in many ways. I know my adult women friends will like it, the ones who like fantasy anyway. But so will the teens, girls and guys. Women Warriors in a tribe that worships an evil Goddess, magical powers, and another group of people who worship the One True God and have a society a lot like King Arthur’s. Great fantasy stuff . Intense. For older teens and up.

I didn’t find an excerpt, but here’s the author’s website:
http://www.seerling.com

8. My Life, Unscripted by Tricia Goyer. This isn’t fiction, but it’s a little hard to describe. An interactive kind of book where you can write out your own life scripts. Using the metaphor of screenwriting, My Life, Unscripted explores relationships in every teenage girl's life-with herself, her friends and enemies, her parents, guys, and with God.
Real-life scripts, screenwriting terms, and timely topics, make this an interesting read for teen girls as they delve into their own inner struggles and outward relationships. They'll also learn the importance of "scripting" their own responses BEFORE challenging life-situations arise, so they are able to think about, pray about, and consider how to face these situations before the scene begins. By contrasting real-life with TV or movies, teens discover they don't have to get caught up in the drama.


Tricia is running a video contest for teens right now. Go to this page for details and to read the first chapter:
http://www.triciagoyer.com/Youth.html

9. Time Masters by Geralyn Beauchamp. This is another action-packed, fun novel with a teenage girl for one of the main characters. The other is a big hunk of a Scottish guy. Guys and girls should both love it, but one warning: it's about 500 pages long. I thought it would take me forever to read, but it was so much fun that it didn't take long after all. And anyone who can handle a Harry Potter book can surely tackle this one.

Get ready for one wild ride! The year is 3698 and the threat of civil war is not only brewing, but near boiling. Kwaku Awahnee, Time Master of Muirara, must pass on his Time Mastership to his pre-chosen successor, Dallan MacDonald, to prevent the inevitable. Councilor John Eaton must tell the unsuspecting Scot of his new office and all it entails. There are, however, a few slight problems. To become a Time Master, the Highlander has to willingly join with a Muiraran Maiden, who, stolen as an infant, hidden in another time, and now grown, must mate or die. Dallan’s job of convincing her that she is Muiraran, not human, and persuading her to fall in love with him is a small task compared to their impossible race against time. John’s job is make sure the Scot is ready to listen. And then, of course, talk him into it along the way…

Excerpt: this is from amazon.com page

10. Chenoa's Spiritual Journey by Becky Jane Dice. What would you do if your parents made an important decision concerning your future; a decision that meant you had to give up family, friends, and the only home you've ever known? For 16-year-old Chenoa Fawn Gray Owl, her parent's decision to leave the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona and move to Ohio would change her life forever. Chenoa is about to embark on a spiritual journey.

Excerpt: http://members.fortunecity.com/beckyjdice/sample.html

11. Faith Awakened by Grace Bridges.
Ireland as it has never been seen before – in a future where hope is hard to come by. Mariah, living in the dark time after the advent of a one world government, seeks the light in the underground Fellowship of the Awakened. Shortly afterwards, nearly the whole earth is silenced, and she struggles through the shock with a handful of survivors. Yet the danger has not passed away entirely, and they are forced to fight for their lives using an untested technology.
Faith, too, grows up in Ireland, but it has little in common with the homeland Mariah knew. Sometimes she thinks her life is perfect, asking herself, “If this is a dream, when am I going to wake up?” Other times it seems repetitive and monotonous. She experiences much to delight her, but also suffers from inexplicable bouts of amnesia that rob her of the past again and again. Seeking answers, she travels much in the free world, where disappointments and successes vie for the upper hand until she finally finds fulfillment in spite of all her disasters.


Excerpts and more: http://www.faithawakened.com/index.html


Yikes! I have barely begun to scratch the surface!! I haven’t even mentioned the books that were most popular with the teens who responded to my queries or the ones that should be in your library. To be continued tomorrow!


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Friday, June 27, 2008

FIRST WILD CARD--The Molech Prophecy



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!

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




Today's Wild Card author is:


and his book:

The Molech Prophecy

Whitaker House (July 1, 2008)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Thomas Phillips grew up with a reading disability. He did everything possible not to read. It wasn't until he was in seventh grade that he finally read a book from cover to cover. Now a voracious reader and prolific writer, Phillips uses his accomplishments as a motivational backdrop for speaking at school assemblies.

Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Phillips has worked as a freelance journalist and currently works full time as an employment law paralegal. When he isn't writing, Phillips plays his guitar, is active in his church, coaches his children's Little League team, and plots his next story. The Molech Prophecy is his first published Christian novel.

Visit him at his MySpace, ShoutLife, and blog.

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

The first things I noticed when I pulled into the church parking lot were the two police cars. Instinct wanted to kick in, but I stopped myself from turning my car around. The police weren’t there for me—couldn’t be there for me. I’d done nothing wrong. I wasn’t the same man. My days of running from the police had ended when I became a Christian. I reminded myself of this simple fact and felt a grin play across my lips. Thankfully, my days of running from the police ended four years ago.

On any given Sunday, I have come to expect many things from Faith Community Church. And why not? I have been attending weekly services for years. I expect smiles from Faith’s Greet Team—from those helping direct cars in the parking lot to those handing out programs and pencils at the sanctuary doors. I expect powerful worship music, a variety of jokes from Pastor Ross—some funny, some not so funny—and I expect, each week, a message that will impact the way I live the rest of my life.

But what I did not expect this morning was what I saw next: the complete defacing of the church building. Black spray paint covered the pecan-colored bricks in horrific graffiti.

After parking, I sat silently in the car, taking it all in. A large pentagram—an encircled, upside-down, five-pointed star—was displayed at the center of it all. Painted on every other available surface were words like “Death,” “Die,” “Faggots,” “Hypocrites,” and “God Is Dead.”

Seeing all of the graffiti felt like a punch to the gut. Faith Community was like my second home; the people who attended were like my second family. It was impossible not to take this attack personally.

Slowly, I climbed out of the car, ignoring the early November morning chill. The wind blew relentlessly all around me, howling and moaning as if it too was furious and saddened and confused by the desecration.

Other cars pulled into the lot. The people get-ting out of them emerged as slowly as I must have. I could see the stunned expressions on their faces—dropped jaws and wide eyes that surely matched my own.

Who would vandalize a church like this? I wondered as I walked toward the entrance. As I stopped in front of the pentagram and took in the mess that attempted to dirty my church, I realized that who-ever did this was hurting—hurting badly. That thought did not stifle the anger—the righteous anger—I felt boiling deep inside.

I nodded a grim good morning to the greeter who held the front door open as I walked into the church. The atrium is usually packed with people mingling before the start of the service. Free coffee, hot cocoa, and doughnuts set out on a table each and every week encourage people to arrive early for fellowship.

This morning, however, only a few people lin-gered in the atrium. Whispers were all I heard. As I entered the sanctuary I saw that this was where everyone had gathered. I usually sit toward the back, far right, as if there were assigned seating. The things I’d seen outside left me feeling hollow and alone. Today, I sat closer to the front, middle row.

I nodded hello to people here and there. Many sat with heads bowed, deep in prayer. I decided praying would be a good use of the extra time before the service.
I tried to cope with a flood of mixed emo-tions, such as anger, sadness, confusion, disbelief, and then, once again, anger. Instead of praying, questions ended up filling my mind: Who could do such a thing? Why would someone do such a thing? How are we going to get that filth off the bricks? If I ever get my…. I broke off the last thought before it got out of hand. I’m in a church, I reminded myself. There is no place for thoughts like that, but especially not in a church.

The service did not start the way services nor-mally did. The church band usually opened wor-ship with a fast-tempo song, one that got those present up on their feet, clapping and singing along, and one that brought those lingering in the atrium into the sanctuary.

Today, in dead silence, Senior Pastor Ross Lobene walked out and stood center stage, grip-ping the podium. He seemed at a loss for words. I think he knew what he wanted to say but was afraid that if he tried speaking too soon, he might lose his composure. I wouldn’t blame him.

As usual, roughly two thousand people filled most of the available seats. Two large projection screens hung on the wall at either side of the stage. Both showed a close-up of the pastor’s face. He could not hide his red eyes—or stop his quivering lips.

Pastor Ross opened a Bible, and when he finally started to speak, his voice was weak and shaky, as if he were on the verge of crying. “I want to read Matthew, chapter five, verses ten through twelve: ‘God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.’”

He bowed his head.

I felt sorrowful pain in my chest.

“Shock. Pure shock,” Pastor Ross said. “You don’t think stuff like this will happen here. It will happen elsewhere, like in run-down, gang-ridden areas, so we think. But from what I know of human nature, it happens everywhere, because people can be dark-hearted everywhere. God is always in con-trol, and He wants us to learn to deal with prob-lems in God-honoring ways. I have come to realize through this incident, and through other incidents that have occurred in our church family, that our enemy, Satan, attacks those churches that are a threat to him and his evil ways.”

I nodded in agreement, listening intently and watching as Pastor Ross released his white-knuck-led grip on the podium and began to come into his own. He paced back and forth on the stage, addressing the congregation, righteous fire heating this impromptu sermon.

“Jesus tells us in Revelation three, verses four-teen through seventeen, that He will spit out of His mouth the church whose people are lukewarm in their faith, because they are neither hot nor cold. It is my desire for Faith Community Church to be a church that is hot, making a difference for Christ and His kingdom in Rochester and the surround-ing area.”

As Pastor Ross paused, he stroked the sandy-colored goatee that covered his chin and used a handkerchief to wipe away the beads of sweat that formed on his bald head. “This, friends, this is a great opportunity for us to love our enemies as ourselves.” He pointed out at us and then pointed back at himself. “It is my desire to see everyone at Faith truly model this command from Christ and not become bitter by this incident. I pray that we have an opportunity to minister to the needs of the person or people responsible, so we can share the life-changing message of the gospel with them.

“I have known many people who have been enslaved in the bondage of satanism and witch-craft, and although the hold these things have on them is strong, it is no match for our all-powerful, all-loving God. It will take time, but if we can be models of Christ’s love to this person, I have full confidence that he will become a child of the light instead of a slave to the darkness.” A second, brief pause followed. Then Pastor Ross added, “Don’t get me wrong. I also hope that the person who did this crime is caught and processed fairly through our justice system.”

I tried to let my own anger subside. If Pastor Ross could move on, so could I. All I needed now was help unclenching my hands, which had been rolled into solid fists since the beginning of service.

Used by permission of the publisher, Whitaker House (www.whitakerhouse.com/ ). All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Molech Prophecy--Satanists and Gangers

The Molech Prophecy by Thomas Phillips


Tommy Cucinelle has worked hard to leave his former life as a gang member behind and live clean, so he faces a real dilemma when his pastor asks him to call up some of his old talent in order to find the missing church secretary. His investigations lead to more questions and dark forces that threaten not only Tommy but his friends as well. They also lead him to some characters that are suspicious at best, like the secretary’s sister who continually hounds his path. And some other characters who are intent on keeping lots of secrets, even if it brings harm to Tommy and his friends.

The secretary disappeared at the same time as someone painted awful graffiti all over the church building. Who would have done such a thing? Why is the pastor so concerned about finding the secretary? Why was she such close friends with the son of the Satanist priest? Tommy really doesn’t want to get in so deep with all the skeletons and intrigue, but it seems he has no choice. How will all of this affect his walk with Christ? And why do all these terrible memories from his past assault him? Will he find peace over his younger brother and be able to rid himself of the nightmares that haunt him?

The Molech Prophecy is a skillful thriller/mystery full of intrigue and suspense. There are so many threads that may or may not be connected, giving mystery lovers just what they thrive on. Action abounds, yet it is thought-provoking and filled with spiritual intensity. It deals with the Church of Satan, spiritual warfare at several levels, possible scandals in the church, the change in a life after one becomes a Christian, gangs, friendship, love, faith, the power of God, walking the Christian walk, and many other motifs. The issues are quite modern, and yet the causes behind them and the answers are ageless.

I would recommend this novel for anyone over 13 or so, although it is essentially an adult book. Reluctant readers should enjoy it since it is so full of action and “guy stuff.” While there are dark subjects and violence, it is deftly handled. At 259 pages, it is a fairly quick read, one you won’t want to put down once you start it.


Thomas Phillips has a Shoutlife page here and a blog called One Word at a Time.

The release date for The Molech Prophecy is July 1st. The best price is $7.19 at deepdiscount.com. You can pre-order there or Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

BOOK DETAILS
The Molech Prophecy by Thomas Phillips
259 pages paperback
Publisher: Whitaker House (July 1, 2008)
ISBN-13: 978-1603740555



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Thomas Phillips

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

SHE ALWAYS WORE RED by Angela Hunt



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!

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






Today's Wild Card author is:


and her book:


She Always Wore Red

Tyndale House Publishers (April 23, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected in novels from this versatile author. With over three million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 100 works ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to novels.

Now that her two children have reached their twenties, Angie and her husband live in Florida with Very Big Dogs (a direct result of watching Turner and Hooch and Sandlot too many times). This affinity for mastiffs has not been without its rewards--one of their dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest canine in America. Their dog received this dubious honor after an all-expenses-paid trip to Manhattan for the dog and the Hunts, complete with VIP air travel and a stretch limo in which they toured New York City.

Afterward, the dog gave out pawtographs at the airport.

Angela admits to being fascinated by animals, medicine, psychology, unexplained phenomena, and “just about everything” except sports. Books, she says, have always shaped her life— in the fifth grade she learned how to flirt from reading Gone with the Wind.

Her books have won the coveted Christy Award, several Angel Awards from Excellence in Media, and the Gold and Silver Medallions from Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award. In 2007, her novel The Note was featured as a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel. Romantic Times Book Club presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

In 2006, Angela completed her Master of Biblical Studies in Theology degree and completed her doctorate in 2008. When she’s not home reading or writing, Angie often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences. And to talk about her dogs, of course.


Visit her at her website.

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

The nameless cadaver on the cover of my anatomy textbook—a middle-aged man who is no longer black, white, or brown—would be counted among the orange in a census of the embalmed.

Someone should have adjusted the tint before they juiced him.

I flip the book open and study the color photographs of the cadaver’s aortic arch and brachiocephalic veins, then close my eyes and try to commit the multisyllable words to memory. Here I am, near the end of my first semester of mortuary school, and I’m still having trouble keeping my veins and arteries straight.

Behind me, an irate mother in the carpool line is honking, though we have a good three minutes before kindergarten dismissal. She probably has to pick up her child and get back to work before the end of her lunch hour. While I sympathize with her impatience, I wish she’d lay off the horn so I can concentrate.

I open one eye and examine the book propped on my steering wheel. The right internal jugular branches off the right and left brachiocephalic veins, which lie outside the brachiocephalic trunk. Brachiocephalic sounds like some kind of dinosaur. Bugs would like that word.

I turn the book sideways, but the photograph on the page looks nothing like a prehistoric animal. In fact, I find it hard to believe that anything like this jumble of tunnels and tubes exists in my body, but skin covers myriad mysteries.

I snap the book shut as the bell at Round lake elementary trills through the warm afternoon. The kindergarten classes troop out into the sunshine, their hands filled with lunch boxes and construction paper cutouts. The tired teachers stride to the curb and peer into various vehicles, then motion the appropriate children forward.

My spirits lift when my red-haired cherub catches my eye and waves. Bradley “Bugs” graham waits until his teacher calls his name and skips toward me.

“Hey, Mom.” He climbs into the backseat of the van as his teacher holds the door.

“Hey yourself, kiddo.” I check to make sure he’s snapped his seat belt before smiling my thanks at his teacher. “Did you have a good morning?”

“Yep.” He leans forward to peek into the front seat. “Do we hafta go home, or can we stop to get a snack?”

My thoughts veer toward the to-do list riding shotgun in the front passenger seat. I still have to run to the grocery store, swing by the dry cleaner’s to pick up gerald’s funeral suit, and stop to see if the bookstore has found a used copy of Introduction to Infectious Diseases, Second edition. Textbooks are usually pricey, but medical textbooks ought to come with fixed-rate mortgages. Still, I need to find that book if I’m going to complete my online course by the end of the semester.

“I’ll pull into a drive-through,” I tell Bugs, knowing he won’t mind. “You want McDonald’s?”

He nods, so I point the van toward Highway 441.

“Mr. gerald make any pickups today?” Bugs asks.

I ease onto the highway, amazed at how easily my children have accepted the ongoing work of the funeral home. “none today.”

“See this?”

I glance in the rearview mirror and see Bugs waving his construction paper creation. “Yes.”

“It’s a stegosaurus. Can I give it to gerald?”

“I think he’d like that.” I force a smile as an unexpected wave of grief rises within me. like a troublesome relative who doesn’t realize she’s worn out her welcome, sorrow often catches me by surprise. Gerald, the elderly embalmer at Fairlawn, has become a surrogate father for my sons. Thomas, my ex-husband and my children’s father, has been gone for months, but in some ways he’s never been closer. He lies in the Pine Forest Cemetery, less than two miles from our house, so we can’t help but think of him every time we drive by.

I get Bugs a vanilla ice cream cone at the McDonald’s drive-through, and then we run to the grocery store and the dry cleaner. I’ll call the bookstore later. no sense in going there when a simple phone call will suffice.

Finally we turn into the long driveway that leads to the Fairlawn Funeral Home.

Gerald has poured a new concrete pad next to the garage, and as I park on it, Bugs notices that the call car is gone. “uh-oh.” He looks at me. “Somebody bit the dust.”

I press my lips together. A couple of months ago I would have mumbled something about the old station wagon maybe needing a wash, but now I know there’s no reason to shield my children from the truth—we are in the death care industry. The squeamishness I felt when we first arrived vanished the day I walked into the prep room and gloved up to help gerald lay out my ex-husband.

“Come in the house,” I tell my son. “I’ll pour you a glass of milk.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First Chapter: TRION RISING by Robert Elmer



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book is chosen for a FIRST Wild Card Tour.

To be honest, I haven't read this book yet myself, but the first chapter intrigued me, so I am passing it along for readers to decide for themselves.




Today's Wild Card author is Robert Elmer

and his book is Trion Rising .





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Meet Robert

"For as long as I can remember I've always loved writing. When I was in grade school, I created a family newspaper, wrote essays for fun. In high school, I took every writing class available. My parents, both from Denmark, passed along to me a love of language and books. Writing naturally came from that kind of environment.

I graduated from Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord, California, then received my BA in Communications from
Simpson College, San Francisco. I completed journalism classes from U.C. Berkeley extension, and a post-graduate program in Elementary Education at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California.

Then what? Right out of college I was a freelance writer, a public relations/admissions director and an assistant pastor. I also worked as a reporter and an editor for community newspapers, then as a copy writer for
Baron & Company, a full-service marketing communications firm in Bellingham, Washington.

I now work full time writing and speaking, and my wife Ronda works as a receptionist at a pediatric dental center. We live and attend church in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and are the parents of three terrific young adults (one married).

When I'm not writing I enjoy sailing, working on vintage boats, traveling and spending time with my family.

Click on the
Interviews link here (or above) for more Q&A information.

For a list of my published books, start
here."

Visit him at his website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714214
ISBN-13: 978-0310714217


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One




I thought you said you knew how to fly this thing!”
       
 “I did. I do. Trust me.”

Easy for him to say. Oriannon could only grip her stiff bucket seat with both hands and count down the final seconds of her young life. She cringed at the buzz of a high-pitched warning.

“On present course, nine seconds to impact,” came the metallic warning voice. “Eight seconds . . .”

Ori wondered how she had let Margus Leek talk her into sneaking aboard the little two-seat interplanetary pod. It was fast, but built for speed and certainly not comfort. If she stretched her arms even a little she would elbow the pilot.

“Relax, Orion.” Margus Leek yanked the joystick to starboard, and their pod brushed by the antenna of a rather large telecommunications satellite. “I grew up flying these little things.”

“Tell me why I don’t feel any better.” Oriannon tried not to scream as they buzzed by another piece of space debris — an old fuel tank — leaving it spinning in their wake. “And my name isn’t — ”

“I know, I know. Sorry. You don’t have to tell me. It’s Or-i-ANN-on.” When he smiled, she could almost see his eyes twinkling through his scratched sun visor. “Oriannon, Oriannon. Don’t know how I can forget a VIP passenger like the esteemed and honorable Oriannon Hightower of the Nyssa clan.”

“It’s just Oriannon, okay?” she told him. “Forget all the other names.”

He laughed as they dipped below an orbiting solar collector, close enough to read the warning label on the underside. She closed her eyes and wondered what it would be like to grow up without all the baggage that came with being an elder’s daughter. If her father wasn’t an elite member of Corista’s ruling Assembly — 

But the impact buzzer sounded again, and she snapped her eyes back open.

“Whatever you say, Just Oriannon.” Margus smiled again. “And don’t worry. I’m watching where we’re going.”

Could have fooled me, Ori thought.

Now Margus readjusted his nav-system by passing his index finger across a colored grid screen and tapping in several coordinates from memory. The move doubled their speed and set them on a direct course to Regev, the largest of their world’s three suns. Anything not strapped down, including Ori’s lunch sack, crashed into the back of the small cargo area behind their seats.

“So how about a tour of the Trion?” asked Margus, sounding like a tour guide.

As they picked up even more speed, Ori frowned and twisted the family ring on her finger — the ring with the tiny, brilliant blue corundum stone set in the distinct diamond shape of Saius. As the second largest but most intense of their suns, the real Saius now filled her eyesight even more than it had back on the planet’s surface.

Unfortunately, she could also smell overheating deflectors, like burning rubber. Did he really have to jerk them around so much? This time the impact alarm insisted they veer away from a restricted zone.

“Immediately!” screeched the buzzer voice.

“What’s that all about?” asked Oriannon. Margus silenced it with a tap to the flashing amber screen.

“No problem, Your Highness,” he told her just before they flew straight into a blinding white light and every alarm in the pod went off at once.

“Margus!” Oriannon held a forearm to her face, but that did not help her as they tumbled out of control in a maelstrom of warning lights and screeching alarms. So this was how her life would end? She broke out in a sweat and gagged at the nose-burning smell of fried electronics.

“Do something!” Oriannon cried. She coughed and held on as the inside of the pod warmed to sizzling. In the blinding light she couldn’t even make out Margus sitting next to her.

“Just a sec,” mumbled Margus. And as quickly as the light had overpowered them, it suddenly blinked out, leaving them spinning slowly, silently, and in the dark. A lone alarm buzzed once then died to a pitiful whimper.

“Are you going to tell me what just happened?” Ori slowly lowered her arm and blinked her eyes, but the horrible flash of light and heat still echoed in her eyesight. It would take several moments to get used to normal space light once more. Margus shook his head and tapped at the control panel in front of him, as if he were trying to wake it back up. A few of the dials flickered, but not all.

“Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.” He looked around and behind them. “I think we got caught between two of those big solar reflectors, and — ”

“And what?”

“And, uh, it’s probably a good thing we didn’t stay back there.” He jerked his thumb and tapped the instrument panel once more. “Looks like it cooked us a little.”

A little? Ori swallowed hard, wishing she could just stop this ride and get out right there.

“Look, Margus,” she finally whispered, choking back the bitterness that curled her tongue. “I don’t know what we’re doing here, and my dad’s really going to be upset with us when we land. If we land. We’ve got to turn around right now.”

“That’s the one thing we can’t do.” Margus was sweating under his silver flight helmet visor too. “We can’t go back that way. Better just enjoy the view. There’s the Trion, see?”

The Trion — which meant “three lights” in the ancient Coristan tongue — was made up of three suns. Regev, a red giant, never blinked as it cast a perpetual rosy glow over the brightside of Corista. This rosy glow was offset by the white-blue of Saius, a much brighter and more intense flame. Between the two suns, the Brightside of Corista never saw darkness. Heliaan — the smallest, distant yellow sun some -people missed — stayed in the background. Together the three suns joined to create the flickering violet hue of the pretty Coristan sky, though it had turned darker the higher they climbed.

But right now Oriannon wasn’t impressed. She peered up through the clear plexi bubble over their heads, the only barrier between them and the cold vacuum of space and the searing light of one of those space mirrors.

“You sure we can’t just go back?” she asked, shaking off her jitters.

“I’ll get us back, Your Highness.” By this time he’d removed a panel and was yanking out circuits. “Just have to override a -couple systems, and we’ll be good to go. My dad showed me how to do this once.”

“While you were up here?”

He paused a moment before answering.

“Uh, no. Back in his shop. But it should work.”

So he wrestled with the controls as they bounced from one space mirror to the next, ducking behind them to avoid being fried all over again. Margus touched one wire to another, showering sparks in his lap but firing the ship’s thrusters as they glided — the long way — between the orbits of their home world and eleven other distant moons, all circling the big planet.

“I never knew there were this many of these mirror things up here.” Ori braced for the next deflector bump.

“Must be hundreds of them,” Margus said as he nodded. “I just don’t get what they’re for. There’s something strange about all this.”

Strange wasn’t quite the right word. But all Oriannon could do was look out the window as they dodged the curved mirrors, each one many times bigger than their little pod. She couldn’t pretend to care about the stunning view Margus had promised before they took off on this horrible ride. But if she cared to look, Oriannon would have seen the lush green landscape of Corista below, bathed in the trebly bright light of their three suns.

In fact, if she had cared to, she could recite every detail of the landscape. Sometimes her eidich’s memory came in handy, if she could just put aside all the mental baggage that crowded her brain with bits and details, faces and names, trivia and conversations that would never go away.

The Plains of Izula reminded her of a quilt her grandmother Merta had once showed her, decorated by patchwork fields of grain and orchards of every colored fruit a person could imagine: trees loaded with golden aplon, deep purple pluq, and her favorite, the lip-puckering orange simquats. And when she finally looked down, she couldn’t help catching her breath at the forest green, myrtle green, emerald green, fern and sea green, lime green, moss green, deep cobalt green, viridian-that-matched-her-eyes green, olive, and everything-in-between green. Here it stretched all the way to the horizon, which wasn’t far in this tiny, well-watered garden planet, Corista.

And there! In the Highlands, not far from the boundary between light and dark, was Seramine, perched like a jewel in the jade crown. Seramine, the capital city, her city. Were they finally getting closer? Even at this height she could imagine how the bright windows of grand whitewashed palaces and halls seemed to catch blue and red rays of sun, winking back at her. Did they know she was up here watching?

Once more, they bumped off the back side of another orbiting mirror, sending them spinning into the clear. Oriannon instinctively gripped the handle next to her seat, ready for anything.

“Sorry.” Margus pointed ahead. “But see? I think we’re all clear now.”

“Wonderful.” Maybe she didn’t sound as enthused as he would have liked. “I’m still thinking about what my dad’s going to say.”

“I thought you said he was always too worried about Assembly stuff to pay much attention to you. Is he really going to worry about one little borrowed pod?”

“You don’t know my dad. And the pod — are you sure you can land this thing now?”

She adjusted the headset of her comm and went back to peering out through the hard-shell bubble — just before a new screech of warning alarms pierced the tiny cockpit.

“So it needs a little maintenance.” Margus shrugged and replaced a circuit panel, bringing back the lights while spewing a plume of smoke at her feet. Oriannon could only hold her hands over her head and close her eyes. She hoped it would all just go away, and soon.

But once more the pod jolted and lurched to the side. And as Margus grappled with the controls, they once more spun out of control, falling like a delicate cerulean flower petal through the edge of the atmosphere. Even without looking she could feel the heat radiating from the bubble above their heads, but this time the fabric of her silver coveralls kicked in with coolant that flowed through its built-in blue tubing. If they were going to die in this little pod, at least they would die comfortably.

“I think,” she moaned, trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

“You might want to hold off on that a few minutes, Your Highness.” Besides that infuriating grin of his, he could also sound infuriatingly cocky. Maybe that’s why she liked him, though she’d never admit it. After a few minutes the shuttle spun a final time, then rocked from side to side like a hammock, before the scream of wind around the cockpit told Oriannon they’d dropped back down into Corista’s violet atmosphere.

“Forty-eight thousand klicks,” announced Margus, as they swooped ever lower, leaning dangerously to the side. And now he could have almost passed for a Coristan shuttle pilot, instead of a fifteen-year-old impostor who had hijacked the little pod for a silly joyride. “Forty . . . no, wait.”

He tapped on a dial with the palm of his hand. That dial wasn’t working, either.

“Margus — ”

“No worries.” Didn’t he ever worry about anything? “We don’t really need that thing. It’s just for show.”

“I don’t believe you, but listen — ”

He looked over at her with his eyebrows arched, waiting for her to finish.

“Thanks.” She finally got the word out.

“What, for getting you into trouble or for almost killing you?”

“No.” She shook her head. “For not giving up.”

He shrugged. “No wor — ”

“Don’t say it.” She interrupted him. But it didn’t matter now as they finally slipped into a landing pattern, a lineup of incoming shuttles and pods — each separated by only a few meters and held in place by point-to-point tractor beams. Oriannon wished she could slump just a little lower in her seat so the pilot in the larger shuttle behind them wouldn’t recognize her. But she could hear every word that now crackled over the comm line, which seemed to work.

“You’re out of order, Bravo One-Nine,” came the voice over the comm. That would be the guy in the shuttle. And it sounded just like someone complaining that Margus cut into the lunch line at school.

“Sorry,” Margus responded through his own headset. “We’ve got mechanical problems. Need to touch down right away.”

“Stand by,” came the voice again, and a moment later the shadow of the much-larger ship hovered over them, and they felt the lurch of a grappling pad pulling them up.

“Hey, ah . . .” Margus got back on the comm line. “We don’t really need a tow.”

We could have used one a long time ago, thought Oriannon.

“Relax,” the voice told them. “We’ll have you back to port in just a minute.”

Or ten. Either way, Oriannon held her breath until landing thrusters screamed and she felt a comforting thump as they finally landed, upside-down, in the midst of Spaceport Corista. While the engines wound down, a beehive of workers in blue coveralls bustled around the ships, attaching power cables and fluid exchangers, rolling up with floating lev-carts full of tools.

“So how do we get out of here without anybody seeing us?” she wondered aloud, raising her voice to be heard over the scream of still more engines.

“Too late for that.” Margus hit the canopy control so it lifted clear with a whoosh of air. “Follow my lead.”

“That’s what got us into trouble in the first place,” Ori mumbled, but she climbed out after Margus, and they hopped down to the tarmac. Her knees buckled for a moment as she readjusted to the planet’s light gravity.

“Coming?” Margus already had a step or two on her as they hustled past dozens of parked shuttles, pods, and cargo ships. They nearly made it to the hangar exit when one of the workers caught up with them.

“You! We didn’t get your flight plan download.” A tall Coristan with typical olive-colored skin and typical sunshades tapped his clipboard. “In fact, looks like you were flying through a restricted area, and I don’t even have an original flight plan for your unit. It’s still in the maintenance pool.”

“I know.” Margus had to crane his neck to look up at the worker. He inched toward the exit as they spoke. “We just had it out to test the systems.”

“You know that’s not how we do things. But, hey — ” The worker crossed his arms and looked them over a little more closely. “Aren’t you Supervisor Leek’s kid?”

By this time Oriannon was ready to melt through a crack in the concrete floor.

“Uh . . .” Margus had to be looking for a way out too. “We were on assignment from the Assembly.”

Oh, Margus, she thought, anything but that.

And sure enough, the worker threw his head back and laughed, long and hard.

“Nice try.” He finally stopped laughing long enough to notice Oriannon, and it probably didn’t do any good that she tried to look away. “You’ll come with me to the office, and we’ll . . .”

His voice trailed off, and he stared at Oriannon’s hand. Her ring, actually.

“Like I was saying . . .” Margus tried to explain once more, but this time the wide-eyed worker waved him off.

“I didn’t realize,” he muttered, backing up a step. “Sorry to bother you. You know the way out?”

Margus looked at the guy with an expression that said Huh? But Oriannon knew exactly what had just happened. She answered for the both of them.

“We know the way. Thanks.” And she didn’t waste any more time chatting. But a quick glance up at the corner of the huge hangar area told her what she was afraid of: A small, grapefruit-sized security probe hovered like an eye in the sky, its red light telling her that it had not missed a thing. In fact, the small silver sphere had probably recorded every word of their conversation with the maintenance guy.

“That was cool!” whispered Margus as the double doors slid open for them. “What did you do, some kind of mind control?”

She fingered the ring. “Something like that.”

Only problem was, she knew that what had spooked the hangar worker wasn’t going to impress her father.

And the trouble, she told herself, hasn’t even begun.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Who's on First? Sue's on First!




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!

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



This Friday the 13th -- A vampire . . . a werewolf . . . can two who were wronged make it right? By their Faith!



Today's Wild Card author is:






and her book:




Never Ceese

Journey Stone Creations (February 1, 2006)
(Autographed copies can be ordered through www.thewriterscafepress.com/)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sue Dent hails from Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi College in 1983. Since graduating she’s sold computers, taught computer classes and has worked as a Technical Specialist IV for the Mississippi Department of Natural Resources.

Her first book Never Ceese was published in May of 2006. It has since been short-listed for a Bram Stoker Award in the category of Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

This past March Sue was an invited guest of Nicholas Grabowsky to the World Horror Convention in Toronto Canada. Never Ceese was also at Comic-Con 2007 in San Diego and represented by Head Press Publishing.

Of her writing, which continues to successfully cross both Secular and Christian boundaries, Sue says, “Well, somebody had to do it. Might as well be me.”

Her much anticipated sequel Forever Richard is due out in 2008 published by The Writers’ CafĂ© Press. As always, watch www.NeverCeese.com/ and www.ForeverRichard.com/ for updates.

Visit her at her website.


Product Details

List Price: $17.99
Hardcover: 300 pages
Publisher: Journey Stone Creations (February 1, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599580179
ISBN-13: 978-1599580173

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


PROLOGUE

She was finally alone, all alone. Merideth had taken all six children with him, and she wouldn’t see them again until much later, after the church service Merideth was leading ended. The weathered, horse-drawn wagon had never looked so full, and for a brief moment, Julia wanted to go along, too. Holding back tears as they pulled away wasn’t easy. Yet when she could no longer hear the wagon wheels creaking along, or the steady plod of their mare pulling it, she regrouped. They would be back soon enough, and until then, she should enjoy this free time. After all, Merideth had planned this time alone for her. Julia wouldn’t spoil it by being sad.

She would work in the garden. No, she would sit in her garden, and absolutely no one would bother her. But first, she must tidy up. Yes, she thought. I will tidy up, then relax.

She started in the small kitchen, but only had to spend a little time there. Her two daughters had cleaned it before they left. She moved on. Instinctively, she kept looking for a child to come darting out, a daughter or a son, calling to her for one thing or another. She paused, fought back another tear. Even when they weren’t there, they were. She went along, picked up a shirt and scolded the child who had left it, though the child was nowhere around to be affected by her words. This time Julia laughed, realized how ridiculous she sounded. I’ve been a mother far too long! But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Julia didn’t look at all like someone’s mother. After six children, she still looked very much like an older sister. She and Merideth married young and had gotten started early. She hadn’t had time to think about growing old and, consequently, it didn’t seem she had. Her face was smooth, not one line or blemish, and only seemed to attract more attention than when she was younger. Men took notice, but she wanted none but Meri. He doted on her, took care of her and loved her like no other could.

Meri was a fine catch in his own right: a man of God, strong and humble, captivating and caring. She smiled knowingly, then carried the shirt she had collected from the floor back to where it belonged, all while thinking of the one person she could never get enough of.

In the small room where the boys slept, she placed the shirt on the bed closest to the door. But just as she began turning around to leave, a shadow overtook hers, a much larger one.

“Who’s there?” she said, rattled. “What do you want?” But she got no answer.

She turned slowly, and stifled her scream. The man was much too close, blocking her way out of the room.

She would go. She would run. He would never catch her. “If . . . If you’re here to see Mer— my husband . . . he’s just out back. I’ll go and get him.”

But he grabbed her arm tight when she tried to get by.

“Husband not here. Children not here. Julia all alone. Julia woman of Go—” He stopped, placed the palm of his free hand against his forehead, as though trying to force some unimaginable pain away. After a moment, he spoke again. “Want Julia and husband to leave.”

Why was he talking like that? What was wrong with him and how did he know her name? The questions came to her at once. She didn’t care about the answers though; she just wanted to leave. She pulled again. “Please, let me go.”

But he didn’t. Instead, he led her outside, took her into the woods that thickened just past the garden, and handed her off to another man whose grip was just as firm.

“No words,” the first man said. “No kill.”

A feeling of dread overcame her as she watched the first man leave, then turned to face the one who now held her. She’d seen his lustful smile before. When Meri couldn’t accompany her on her errands in town, she got those looks sometimes. They always made her feel awkward, uneasy. But not terrified, as she was now.

The remainder of that time was a blur as Julia forced herself not to think about what the man was doing as he forced himself on her. Finally it was over, and he left.

Julia felt sick, rolled over onto her side and took deep breaths. A twig snapped behind her. She started, managed to get to her feet but froze in fear. Why won’t they just leave me alone?

The first man was back, moved toward her cowering form and spoke. “Julia not forget this day. Julia never forget. Tell husband to go. Only evil will stand here.”

What happened next, Julia was sure no one would ever believe. Right before her eyes, the man turned into a wolf. The wolf came at her, tore his claws at her right side.

She managed to get to a tree and hid behind it, certain the wolf would come after her and kill her. She waited, eyes screwed shut, but nothing happened. Long moments passed, and she finally opened her eyes to see that the wolf was once again the man.

“Leave,” he grunted at her.

Holding her bleeding side with her hands, she pushed through the pain and ran—stumbling, falling to her knees more than once—but eventually making it back to the house. The door was still open, she noticed, and, with what energy she had left, she stumbled inside, bolted the door and collapsed. When she was able, she tore at her already-ripped blouse to make long strips. Using them as bandages, she dressed the wound.

As she worked, the room became steadily darker; the sun was setting, her family would be home soon. She did what she could to pull herself together for their sakes. They couldn’t know. No one could know. No one could ever, ever know!

When her family returned, they found her sitting in the tiny parlor, sewing.

She fumbled through the next few days. When emotion overwhelmed her, she simply went to her room. One morning her oldest son questioned her. She told him it was nothing, but his face told her he didn’t believe her. She knew he’d go to his father, but no longer cared.

* * *


The garden was where Julia went often to seek solace, and she was there when Merideth found her that afternoon, sitting and staring vacantly at her favorite rosebush, the one he gave her on her birthday: the one she nurtured like her seventh child.

In May of 1785, Merideth answered the call of God to go to Llandyfan, Wales. He took Bibles, medicines, his wife and small son. To the Baptists, who had established themselves in this new territory, Merideth was a Godsend. To the evil that had taken root all around, he was an adversary. Merideth won many souls over. For him and his family, it was a new beginning, something they were looking forward to. But now, his dear wife was troubled, and that troubled him mightily.

“And what thought has you staring so intently?” Merideth asked, his kind voice offset by his worry.

Julia broke herself from her trance, shook her head. “Nothing, Meri.” She tried but failed to smile.

Merideth took a few steps closer, sat on his heels next to where she’d settled on a small wooden bench, one he’d made for her so she could sit while tending to her roses. “Our oldest son has come to me with concerns about his mother. I have been far too busy, I should have seen. You haven’t been yourself, and I do so miss that. What is troubling you?”

She wanted to tell him but her words caught in her throat. The memory of that horrid day was still too fresh. All at once she felt the man’s hands on her again, could hear him breathing close to her ear, smell the earth as he pinned her to the ground. She stared at Merideth, tried to push the memories away, but they couldn’t be stopped. Tears threatened.

Merideth, seeing this, attempted to pull her toward him with gentle hands. But all Julia could see was the man in the woods. “No,” she said, and flung her hands in front of her.

His alarm grew. “Julia, please, I just— If I have done something, please tell me.”

She was staring at the ground when she spoke. “It is not you, it is me. I . . . I have shamed you.”

“Shamed me?” he sputtered. “What are you saying? You could never shame me.”

She took a wavering breath. “Two days ago, there was a man. When you took the children with you. He-He came into the house while I was alone— I tried to run, Meri, but he grabbed me and took me to the woods . . . to where another man waited and—”

“Julia,” Merideth said, his breath going out of him, and then again, “Julia.”

He took her by her shoulders this time, and Julia froze. After a second, though, she realized this was Meri, her Meri, and not some terrible memory. Seconds later, she relaxed, allowed him to hold her close, drew from his strength.

“I can’t believe you kept this from me,” he said, his voice catching. “I can’t believe you— that you didn’t say something sooner. Right away.”

“I . . . I didn’t want to upset the children.”

In awe, Merideth held her at arms’ length. “The children? Julia, what about you? What did you think would happen if you kept this inside?”

“I also didn’t want to lose you. I couldn’t bear it.”

“As if I would ever consider leaving you!”

A tiny wave of relief washed over her.

“You are my life, Julia. My world.” He pulled her close again. “We’ll get through this. God will help us.”

“There’s more, Meri,” Julia said, pushing herself farther away on the bench. “The man . . . the first man, he-he came back after the other man had . . . had—”

Merideth put a finger to her lips before she could finish. “None of it matters.”

“But it’s not what you think.” She wanted to get the words out before fear overwhelmed her. “The first man, he . . . he talked about your mission, about the work you do.” The words rushed out now. “He said we should leave this place and never come back. Said there was no room for good here, that evil prevailed. He then said . . .” she took a deep breath, “if we didn’t leave, he would come back for the children and—”

She couldn’t finish, and he wouldn’t make her. Neither did he hesitate to respond. “Then we shall move—as soon as possible. We will leave this place.”

“But Meri, this is where you felt the Lord leading you! You have sacrificed so much, worked so hard—it would be like giving up.” She was remembering the stir he’d caused when he started baptizing. Immersion in water wasn’t something familiar to anyone in the area then.

“The Lord will understand,” he said without compromise. “I must protect you . . . our children.”

“But you have done so much good here. If only I could have gotten away—”

“Listen to me, Julia! This was not your fault. It was a terrible thing that happened to you, but we will get through it.”

“But Meri . . . I fear . . . I fear I am with child. His child.”

Meri’s eyes widened, but held none of the censure Julia had dreaded. “You really believe you are with child?” he said, wiping a wayward tear from her face. “His child?”

She could only nod.

“But it has only been two days, how can you—? The midwife was certain you could bear no more. We have tried, and—”

At last, her eyes met his. “I know how it must sound, and I don’t want to believe it either. But I’ve had six. I . . . I know how it feels. All six times, I felt like I do now.”

A long pause later, Meri said, “Then we will have another child—another AWRblessing.”

The words sounded harsh to Julia. No, they sounded foolish. How could this child ever be a blessing? “Not like this, Meri,” she said, more tears breaking free. “Not like this.”

“It will be fine, Julia. You’ll see. We will call it a miracle. The children will be overjoyed. No one will know the truth but us . . . and we will never tell.”

“You could love this child?” she said, not believing.

“As if it were my own. I love you, Julia and if this child is yours, then it is mine and it always will be.”

“Meri . . . there is one other thing.” Because of the bizarre nature of what she was about to say, she didn’t wait for him to ask. “Before the man left— the first man, the one who led me into the woods, he . . . he turned into a wolf.”

For the first time, she saw disbelief pass over his face—and something else.

“Perhaps you were just overwhelmed by what happened,” he said. “Delirious. It-It must have been horrible.”

Julia eased up her blouse, carefully removed the strips of cloth she kept over her wounds and revealed what was beneath. The marks were deep and still looked fresh. “He told me . . . before he changed . . . you might need proof.”

Her tears returned, but Merideth could only stare glassy-eyed. He had seen marks such as these before. A young boy and two men from his last mission. All three had died after being attacked by a wolf. All three bore marks identical to the ones his wife was showing him now. And all three had given him a message before they breathed their last breath. They had told him to leave and never come back.

“Did he bite you?” he asked awkwardly. “When he was the wolf, I mean.”

Julie shook her head. “No. Just left these scratches.” She had a hard time figuring out why he asked something so odd. “Is there a reason why you need to know that? Would-Would it make matters worse?”

“Just different,” Merideth said, and reached out to help her ease her shirt back down. “Now, let’s go have those scratches looked at.”

* * *


As he left with her, the two responsible looked on from behind thick bushes. One was a man, the other . . . not quite. He’d been cursed centuries ago, his soul held captive by his own evil. He had cursed many, and would therefore remain cursed forever.

“All right,” the one beside him said. “I did what you asked. Yet I still don’t understand why you couldn’t have done it yourself.” He gave the same leering smile that had so frightened Julia. “You might have enjoyed it. I rather did.”

The man listening wasn’t bothered by the comment. His curse lessened his desire to indulge in the act the other man referred to, even made it difficult. Even if he had been able to, there was no way for him to do what the other man had done. The act, yes, but his seed wouldn’t yield any offspring. He had tried many times before without success.

“Just seems odd to me you wouldn’t want her for yourself.”

The man gave a distant nod, but said nothing. He had other ways of getting pleasure. Spreading his curse was one of those. But since this interfering minister had come to live in the town, pleasure was hard to come by. It wasn’t easy to get close to people who forever had a prayer on their lips or a cross around their neck.

He had to get rid of the minister . . . make an example of him so others wouldn’t feel inclined to take up his cause. This was his territory. He was here first, and the minister was in the way.

“So when do I get the money you promised?” his companion said. “I need to be on my way.” He gave a furtive grin. “Or maybe I’ll just visit Julia again.”

He put a hand to the talkative man’s throat and squeezed. “Julia with child. No touch Julia!”

“Why would you care?” the man croaked. “It’s not your child, but mine.”

The accusation was true, to a point. Yet the scratches he’d left for the minister to see were potent enough to affect the child. Perhaps it would develop keen hearing or an enhanced sense of smell. He’d heard of a similar attack, which yielded a boy-child who could pick up a scent as quick as any dog. When the child was old enough, weaned from its mother’s breast, the attacker, the one who’d done the scratching, took the child from his parents. In the same way, Julia’s child would be his child. When the time was right.

Gasping sounds brought his attention back to the one at the end of his arm, and he loosened his grip slightly.

“All right,” the man sputtered. “I won’t touch her. Just give me my money and I’ll be on my way.”

He might have screamed if he’d known what was coming, but he was dead the second the canine-like fangs pierced the large vein in his neck. He never felt his mutilated body being dragged, then dropped near the spot where Julia’s attack occurred.

* * *AWR

The gravedigger stood knee-deep in what he’d already dug out and shoveled a little longer, his task not far from done. The man’s remains lay, covered, a few feet away.

There were no mourners.

Merideth was there to read last rites at the request of another who’d had other obligations, and Julia had come along with him. She often did when she could arrange to be away from the children. And Merideth had said the one they were burying had no family, no friends anyone knew of, and this bothered her. Julia believed everyone deserved a proper burial, so she stood by the grave of someone she didn’t know, face veiled and head bowed, to pay her respects.

The gravedigger worked a little longer, then climbed out, plunged his shovel into the fresh pile of dirt and stepped far back, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead. “Whenever you’re ready, Minister.”

Merideth nodded, clutched his Bible, and knelt beside the body. When the gravedigger bowed his head, Julia raised hers, and when Merideth lifted the shroud covering the man’s face, as he typically did to begin the service, Julia gasped, “It’s him!”

Stunned, Merideth looked back toward Julia, turned slightly to the gravedigger. When it was clear the man hadn’t heard her, he turned back to Julia. “You’re sure?” he whispered.

She brought a shaky hand to her mouth and nodded. Merideth got up and went to his wife, pulled her close, noting her rapid breathing.

“I’m taking you home,” he said, lifting her up to carry her back to their horse-drawn wagon.

The gravedigger was paying attention now, and looked confused. “But what about your duty?” he called after them.

Merideth’s words were hard. “You shall have to find the Devil himself to bury that one.”

A week after, Merideth and his family loaded their possessions and moved on.

Monday, June 9, 2008

AND THE WINNER IS . . .

Reborn Butterfly!

I collected the names of all the commenters from the CFRB blogs on Gentle Journey (and there were quite a few this time), and Sarah was chosen in the drawing. Congratulations, Sarah! Thanks to all of you who did comment even though you didn't win. I know it has been great encouragement to Elaine, but it is also encouraging to bloggers when we know someone is actually reading what we write. I hope some of you will be intrigued enough to still check out the book at one of the book sellers carrying it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

GENTLE JOURNEY? Maybe, Except for the Bumps and Curves



When I first saw the title of this novel by Elaine Lyons Bach, I was expecting something kind of dull. I was wrong. Very wrong.

Gentle Journey is set in England during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. It is filled with details to fit that time period and the culture of the day. This third-person narrative follows a young daughter of a vicar, Eden Barret, who is seeking employment that can help her large family (her father has died), give her fulfillment, and lead her to a place where she can help the unfortunate on a large scale. And England at the time is full of unfortunates. Orphans, widows and the poor weren’t taken care of very well as a whole, and tender-hearted Eden had seen a lot of misery as she assisted her father with the sick, the dying, and the poverty-stricken in his parish. Eden herself has a strong faith in God and high moral values.

When she applies for a job as a governess/tutor for 12-year-old Diana, only daughter of the Earl of Edmund, Eden doesn’t really know what she’s getting herself into. She finds an estate much greater than she ever imagined with comforts extended even to herself that make it a very cozy position. She enjoys teaching the bright young lady, but is constantly on the edge of trouble with the current Lord Edmund, Diana’s brother Colin. Colin has a great deal of resentment built up against God and forbids Eden from ‘preaching’ to Diana. Eden has a difficult time with her temper and her tongue, so the two of them end up in sparring matches quite often. They drive each other crazy, yet are strangely attracted to each other at the same time.

So far it doesn’t sound very exciting, but the turmoil is brewing in several quarters. From the beginning of her employment, Eden makes a bitter enemy with a chimney sweep when she insists that he stop abusing the two small children that he has bought to work for him. He festers over the loss of his crew and plans revenge that takes some very dark turns. She also needs to contend with the cavalier dandy who is an old acquaintance of Colin’s, brother to a lady that everyone expects Colin to marry. And then there’s Diana, who adores Eden but fears that she and Colin will become too interested in each other, leaving her out of the picture. Her scheming doesn’t involve the danger that some of the others did, but indirectly it causes a great deal of trouble.

Integral to the story is the whole situation of orphans and the poor at this time. Eden has plenty of opportunities to share her kindness and comfort others in ways she would have never imagined, but to say more gives away a good deal of the later events in the story. Some very real situations are dealt with, such as rape, murder, infidelity, death, poor medical conditions, sufferings of war, and abuse; these situations are presented honestly, but without gratuitous violence or grit.

I really loved the style of Gentle Journey, so reminiscent of Jane Austen, and intentionally so. A couple of Miss Austen’s books are even mentioned as being popular at the time. For anyone else who is a fan of Jane Austen, I can readily recommend Gentle Journey for you reading pleasure. I think it would be an excellent choice for summer reading .


Tomorrow's tag team entry on the CFRB blog tour will be on Laura Davis' blog. The tour started yesterday with Bibliophile's Retreat with a great interview. Thursday, the baton is passed to Rebecca Wire, who also posted an interview today. Also check out a humorous but amazingly accurate "fake" review by Stephen L. Rice at Back to the Mountains.


Elaine Lyons Bach has a page at http://shoutlife.com/gentlejourney.


Information for Gentle Journey, including an audio excerpt, a written sample, and links for buying the book (including email download copy) are here.



Book Details:

Gentle Journey
Elaine Lyons Bach
Fiction, Romance
Outskirts Press (February 9, 2007) 248 pgs
ISBN: 978-1598009040

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Take a GENTLE JOURNEY with CFRB

This week the Christian Fiction Review Blog is featuring an enchanting historical novel by Elaine Lyons Bach called Gentle Journey. I will be putting up my review tomorrow, as we are doing a tag team approach this month. Today you will find an interview at Bibliophile's Retreat. Some other reviews include Bloggingauthors and Readerviews.com. Please check them out.

One person who comments on any one of our blogs will get a copy of Gentle Journey from me. I'll be cruising all the blogs, collecting the names, and will choose a winner next Monday, June 9. I recommend it for summer reading.

For now, I leave you with Elaine's book trailer. I hope you enjoy it.









Elaine has a Shoutlife page, shoutlife.com/GentleJourney, and a page at Author's Den

Gentle Journey is available through the following:

Barnes and Noble

Amazon.com

Outskirtspress.com. This site also has an audio excerpt of the novel, with Elaine reading (very well, I might add), the above trailer, and a sample in writing.