Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs: SPOOKY

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/her book:

NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)


Dean Barkley Briggs is an author, father of eight, and prone to twisting his ankle playing basketball. He grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursila K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Madeline L'Engle, Terry Brooks, Andre Norton and Lloyd Alexander (just to name a few)...and generally thinks most fantasy fiction pales in comparison. (Yes, he dabbled in sci-fi, too. Most notably Bradbury, Burroughs and Heinlein).

After losing his wife of 16 years, Briggs decided to tell a tale his four sons could relate to in their own journey through loss. Thus was born The Legends of Karac Tor, a sweeping adventure of four brothers who, while struggling to adjust to life without mom, become enmeshed in the crisis of another world. Along the way they must find their courage, face their pain, and never quit searching for home.

Briggs is remarried to a lovely woman, who previously lost her husband. Together with her four children, their hands are full.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 397 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160006227X
ISBN-13: 978-1600062278

Watch the Trailer:

Enter the Contest:


In final days / Come final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Forgotten curse / Blight the land

Four names, one blood / Fall or stand

If lost the great one / Fallen low

Rises new / Ancient foe

Darkest path / River black

Blade which breaks / Anoint, attack

If once and future / Lord of war,

Queen la Faye / Mighty sword,

Rises ‘gain / As warrior king,

Prepare / For day of reckoning

If Aion’s breath / For music cursed

Sings making things / Made perverse,

Fate shall split / Road in twain

One shall lose / One shall gain

If secret lore / Then be found

Eight plus one / All unbound

Beast shall come / Six must go

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

If buried deep / Hidden seen

Ancient tomb / Midst crimson green

Nine shall bow / Nine more rise

Nine horns blow / Nine stars shine

If falling flame / Burning pure

Ten thousand cries / For mercy heard

Then plagues, peril / Horns of dread

End of days / Land be red

When final days / Bring final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Fate for one / For all unleashed

Come the Prince / Slay the beast

Cross the water / Isgurd’s way

White horse / Top the waves

Aion, fierce! / Aion, brave!

Aion rides / To save the day

— The Ravna’s Last Riddle

Chapter 1


The day was gray and cold, mildly damp. Perfect for magic. Strange clouds overhead teased the senses with a fragrance of storm wind and lightning and the faint, clean smell of ozone. Invisible energy sparkled like morning dew on blades of grass.

Standing alone in an empty field on the back end of their new acreage, Hadyn Barlow only saw the clouds. By definition, you can't see what's invisible, and as for smelling magic? Well, let's just say, unlikely. Hadyn saw what was obvious for late November, rural Missouri: leafless trees, dead grass, winter coming on strong. Most of all he saw (and despised) the humongous briar patch in front of him, feeling anew each and every blister and callous earned hacking through its branches.

Making room for cattle next spring, or so he was told; this, even though his dad had never owned a cow in his life. He was a history teacher for crying out loud. A college professor. Hadyn's shoulders slumped. It didn't matter. Everything was different now. Mr. Barlow didn't let his boys curse, but low under his breath, Hadyn did, mildly, just to prove the point. Life stunk. That was the brutal truth.

All true for the most part. Yet standing alone in the field, bundled in flannel, something else prickled his skin—something hidden in the rhythm of the day, at its core—and it wasn't just the chill wind. He couldn't shake it. A sense of something. Out-of-placeness. Faced with a friendless sophomore year, Hadyn knew that feeling all too well. It attacked him every morning, right before school.

But this was something more, more than the usual nervousness and name-calling stuff. His intuition was maddeningly vague. Hadyn sniffed the air, eyeing the field. A fox scampered in the distance. Bobwhites whistled softly. This had been his routine for weeks. Go to school, come home, do chores. Today was no different. Except for the clouds.

He looked upwards, struck again by the strange hues. The colors were still there; kinda creepy. They had lingered since the bus ride home. He had seen it happen with his own eyes, though he didn’t think much of it at the time. Right about the time school let out and the yellow buses began winding home, the skies had opened and spilled. Low banks of clouds came tumbling from the horizon like old woolen blankets. Like that scene from Independence Day, when the alien ships first appeared. Hues of purple, cobalt and charcoal smeared together. Not sky blue. Not normal. Riding on the bus, face pressed against the cold window, he didn’t know what to think. Only that it looked…otherworldly. Like God had put Van Gogh in charge for the day.


Earlier, the day hadn’t felt weird. If anything, he had felt relief. Two days until Friday...until Thanksgiving Break. Only two days. He could make it. Standing by the mailbox with his three brothers, waiting for the bus—he couldn’t wait to get his own car—mild winds had stirred from the south, scampering through row after row of brittle stalks in the neighbor’s cornfield across the road. He heard them in the leafless oak and elm of his own yard, hissing with a high, dry laughter. Warm winds, not cold. But about noon, the wind shifted. Again, no big deal for Missouri, always caught in the middle between the gulf streams of Mexico and Canada’s bitter cold. Temperamental weather was normal in these parts.

Yet there it was. From the winding ride home to this very moment, he couldn’t rid himself of that dry-mouthed, queasy feeling. It was more than a shift in wind. It was a shift in energy. Yes, the dark clouds and strange colors reminded him of the thickening air before a big, cracking Midwestern storm, but that wasn’t it. This was different.

Hadyn being Hadyn, more than anything else, wanted to identify the moment. To name it.

Though he didn’t actually verbalize until age three, Hadyn was born with a question mark wrinkled into his brows. Always searching, always studying something. He couldn’t speak a word before then—refused to, his dad always said—yet he knew the letters of the alphabet at a precocious 12 months. When he finally did decide to talk, words gushed. Full sentences. Big vocabulary. Not surprisingly, it was clear early on that Hadyn was one of those types bent toward structure, patterns. He hated incongruities, hated not knowing how to pinpoint the strange twist in sky and mood right in the middle of an otherwise typically dreary day. If it was just nasty weather, name it! What did it feel like? Wet fish guts? Not quite. A full wet diaper? He remembered those well enough from when the twins were little, but no. A three day old slice of cheese?

Yes, that was it. Cold, damp, moldy.

Velveeta, actually, he decided, feeling a small measure of satisfaction. He fumbled for the zipper of his coat as another icy breeze prickled his skin. Yep, another lousy Velveeta day in the life of Hadyn Barlow.

He thought of the roaring wood stove back home. Hot cocoa. Little consolation. Until dusk, the oldest Barlow boy was stuck outside in a field with hatchet and hedge shears. Stuck in a foul mood, stuck with a knot in his throat. Just plain stuck. His task, his life, seemed endless and pointless.

“Just a little bit every day, however much you can manage after school,” his father would remind him. “And don’t look so grumpy. The days are shorter and shorter.”

But not any warmer.

“Grr!” Hadyn grumbled aloud, snapping at the cold in his thoughts. He had chosen to “clear” the massive beast by carving tunnels in it, not just hacking mindlessly. Probably not exactly what Dad had in mind, but, well, to be honest, he didn’t really care. He was the one stuck out here in the cold. He had already carved several tunnels, and reentered the biggest one now, loping and clicking his shears at the endless mess of thorns and branches, alternated by halfhearted swings of the hatchet. The briar patch sprawled a couple hundred feet in every direction, comprised of dense, overgrown nettles, blackberry bushes and cottonweed. Untended for generations, the underbrush was so thick and tall a person could easily get lost in it, especially toward the center, where the land formed a shallow ravine that channeled wet weather rains toward the pond on the lower field. Hadyn guessed the height at the center point would be a good 12 feet or more. Enormous.

Really, it was a ridiculous task. Dad had to know that.

“Why not just burn the thing?” Hadyn had asked him. Burn it, then brush-hog it. Throw a hand grenade in and run.

Mr. Barlow never really answered, just said he wanted him to clear it by hand. After the first day of grumbling and complaining (which proved none too popular with his father), Hadyn started carving tunnels. His plan was to craft a maze out of it, maybe create a place to least have some fun before his dad made him level the whole thing

Fun? He caught himself, tasting the word like a spoonful of Nyquil. Fun is soccer with the guys back home.

He paused for a moment to wipe his brow. Home was no longer a city, not for four months now. It was a cow pasture. Home had been Independence, the suburb of Kansas City whose chief claim to fame (other than being the birthplace of Harry S. Truman) was that Jesus would return there, at least according to one of numerous Mormon splinter groups. For Hadyn, it was all about skateboards and traffic and rows of houses. Noise. Friends. Now, all that—everything familiar and good—was exactly three hours and nineteen minutes straight across I-70 on the opposite end of the state. Might as well have been on the opposite side of the planet. Home now: three hundred acres in the middle of nowhere, away from all he had ever known.

The town was called Newland. The name seemed like a smack in the face.

New town. New school. New faces. New troubles to deal with. New disappointments. His dad had tried to make a big deal of the “new” thing. This would be a new start for their family, a new chapter, blah, blah, blah. A change, from sadness to hope, he said. Hadyn hated change.

He didn’t want new. He wanted it how it used to be.

How it used to be was happy. Normal. Right. Fair. How it used to be meant they were a family of six, not five. Hadyn felt a familiar pang slice across his chest. He would have traded all the unknown magic in the world for five more minutes with—


It had been a year since she died. His mental images of her remained vivid, of a beautiful woman with porcelain smooth skin, naturally blonde, witty, vivacious. All four Barlow brothers shared her spunky attitude, as well as an even mix of their parents’ coloring: mom’s fairness, dad’s darker hair and complexion, the boys somewhere in between. Hadyn, rapidly entering his adult body, was tall for his age, muscular, lean, possessed of a sometimes uncomfortably aristocratic air. Some days his eyes were smoky jade, others, iron gray. But he had Anna’s cleverness.

His parents had been saving money for several years, studying the land all around Newland. Hadyn could not fathom why. What was so special about Podunk, America? But he knew his mom had been happy to think about life in the country. Once upon a time, that was enough. But now? Without her, what was the point? Why couldn’t they have just stayed in Independence? Moving wasn’t going to bring her back. Didn’t Dad know that?

For the second time that afternoon, a tidal wave of loneliness nearly drowned him, left him in a goo of self-pity, the sort of sticky feeling he didn’t want anyone to spoil by cheering him up. He took one more angry swing. Done or not, he was done for the day. Work could wait. Dad would just have to deal with it. Already, he had built a pretty impressive maze, though. Six unconnected tunnels so far.

Like I give a rip about these stupid tunnels, he thought as he crawled from the center toward the mouth of the largest, longest shaft. Or this stupid land, or town, or patch of—his knee jammed against a thorn protruding from the soil—thorny! ridiculous!...

He clenched his jaw, flashing through dozens of choice words, using none. Honoring his dad. Pain streamed as tears down his cheek, and it wasn’t just the thorn in his knee. It was life. Crawling forty more feet, he emerged to face the slowly westering sun melting down the sky. The otherworldly colors he had seen earlier were gone. Only the cold remained. And now, a bleeding, sore knee.

Behind him, he heard heard rustling grass and the high pitched, lilting notes of his brother’s tin whistle. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and grimaced. Ewan, like his mother, was musical. Even more like her, he was sentimental. He often carried the whistle she had brought him as a gift from Ireland. It would, no doubt, have seemed humorous to some, to see him wandering the field, playing a spritely little tune. It only annoyed Hadyn. Thankfully, as Ewan drew closer, the song trailed away.

“Hey, Hadyn.”

Hadyn grunted. “What do you want?”

Ewan shrugged, tucking the flute into his back pocket. He wore blue jeans, and a blue embroidered ball cap, initialed ‘ECB’.

“Wondered how things were going.”

“Dad sent you to help, didn’t he?”

Ewan frowned. “Yep. Got done with my chores sooner than planned.”


“Major bummer,” Ewan emphasized. “Looks like you’re near the center, though. That’s pretty cool.”

Hadyn didn’t reply. With only two years between them, the two brothers had always been the closest of friends, the fiercest competitors, the quickest of combatants. They understood each other’s rhythms like no one else in the family. Whereas Hadyn was studied, wise and cautious, Ewan was quick, fearless and comfortable with long odds. No one could make Ewan laugh—gasping-for-air, fall-on-the-ground-cackling—like Hadyn. Likewise, Ewan could frustrate Hadyn to no end, or, with the sheer power of silliness, cheer him up when a sullen moment was about to strike. Not much wanting to be rescued from his mood at the moment, however, Hadyn let his silent response wrap around him like a barrier against further penetration. He didn’t notice that Ewan’s gaze had drifted from the briar patch to the low sky and paused there.

“What do you make of that?” he dimly heard his brother say, distracted, curious. Through the haze of his own thoughts, Hadyn followed Ewan’s line of sight, his pointing finger, straight into the sunset. At first, he saw nothing. Then it was obvious. Several large, black birds were swooping low on the horizon. Even at a distance, it appeared they were headed straight for the two boys, unveering over the slope of the ground, drawing swiftly nearer, a hundred yards or so away. From the sound of their raucous cry, they were like ravens, only larger, throatier, and if possible, blacker.

“Cawl-cawl,” they cried.

Hadyn counted four total, wings outstretched, unflapping, like stealth bombers in formation. There was something organized and determined about their flight. It lacked animal randomness.

“Do they look strange to you?” Ewan asked, cocking his head.

Hadyn pretended to be uninterested. It didn’t last. “What is that in their claws? What’re they carrying?”

“Yeah, I see it. Sticks?”

“Too thick. It would be too heavy. Wouldn’t it?”

“Hard to tell at this angle. Are they heading for us?” Ewan held up his hand to shield his eyes. “Man, they’re fast. What are they?”

“I don’t know, but they’re still—”

“Look out!” Ewan dove to the side, tripping Hadyn in the process. Both boys hit the ground on a roll, turning just in time to see the birds swoop suddenly upward, arcing high into the sky, turn, then turn again. The lead bird, larger than the others, croaked loudly; the other three responded. Over and over, the same phrase, like a demand: “Cawl!”

All four were pitch black, having none of the deep blue sheen of a crow’s feathers, or so it seemed in the failing light. They flew as black slashes in the sky, all wing and beak, not elegant in the air, but fast. Disappearing completely against the lightless eastern expanse, they reappeared again as silhouettes skimming the western horizon. At first it seemed to Hadyn the birds would fly away, as they swept up and out in a wide arc. But the curve of their path soon came full circle. They were attempting another pass. Both boys nervously scooted further outside the angle of the birds’ approach.

“What in the world?” Hadyn said, hatchet raised and ready. It was clearer now in silhouette form. Each bird carried the form of a long, thick tube in their talons.

The brothers hunched on the ground, motionless, muscles tensed, watching as the birds continued their second approach. Hadyn held his breath. The birds didn’t veer, nor aim again for the boys. Instead, they formed a precise, single-file line, a black arrow shooting toward the main tunnel of the thicket. With a final loud croak—“Cawl!”—and not a single flap of wing, all four swooped straight into the hole, one after the other. As they did, each released the object clutched in its talons. The tubes clattered together with a light, tinny sound at the mouth of the tunnel, literally at the boys’ feet. The birds were already beyond sight. Their throaty noise echoed for a moment, evaporating into an obvious silence marked only by the faint breeze of wings passing over broken grass.

Hadyn and Ewan stared first at the tunnel, then at the objects. Then at each other. Then back at the tunnel. In the same instant, each of them leaped toward what the birds had left behind: four thin, black metallic tubes, trimmed with milky white bands at top and bottom.

Hadyn slowly stretched out his hand and picked up a tube. He rolled it between his fingers. It was about the length of Ewan’s Irish whistle, but thicker, maybe the circumference of a quarter. Not heavy at all. In the middle of each tube, finely wrought in scripted gold filigree, the letter ‘A’ appeared.

Ewan lightly shook his tube, listening for clues to its contents. It sounded hollow.

“They didn’t even have us sign for delivery,” he deadpanned. “What do we do with these? They look important.”

“How should I know?” Hadyn said contemptuously, flicking his eyes cautiously toward the tunnel. “Where’d they even go? I mean, really. Are they just hiding back there until we leave?”

“Who cares!” Ewan said. His disgust was obvious. Hadyn’s was being an analyst again. “This isn’t hard, Hadyn. Some big birds dive bombed us. They dropped these cool tubes. It makes no sense. It’s awesome. Totally, factor 10 cool.”

Hadyn mulled it over. “Maybe they’re some sort of carrier pigeon, carrier pigeons even fly anymore?

“Only on Gilligan’s Island. TV Land. Listen to me, you’re just guessing.”

“Have you got a better idea?” Hadyn demanded.

Ewan waited, considered. Hadyn knew he hated being put on the spot like that, in the inferior position. Now it was Ewan’s turn to think.

“Okay, maybe you’re right. Maybe those birds really are carriers of some sort?—” Ewan held up a tube, “—obviously they are. What if they need to carry these things farther still? What if they’re just resting? What if they are trained to do this when they need to rest? Drop their packages, find a hole, rest, then grab their stuff and carry on?”

“So...are you suggesting we flush them out? Cause there is no way I’m going to crawl back there. They can get out later on their own.”

Ewan didn’t reply. Instead he dug into his pocket, pulled out a small flashlight, and scuttled into the tunnel the birds had entered. “Wait here,” he ordered.

“Hey, watch it back there!” Hadyn cautioned. Secretly, he wanted him to go, knew how to punch his brother’s buttons to make it happen. “Those claws looked sharp!”

While he waited for Ewan to return, Hadyn examined the tubes further. He shook one tube, flicked it, smelled another; picked up and twirled the third and fourth tubes. His efforts yielded the same muffled sensation of something barely shifting inside. Maybe a rolled up piece of paper? If the ravens (or crows, or whatever they were) were carriers of some sort, a written message did make the most sense. But who in the world still sent paper bird? By raven, no less. Hello, email anyone?

Presently, Ewan reappeared, breathing hard.

“They’re gone,” he said simply. “Must have flown out one of the other tunnels.”

Hadyn creased his brow. “No way. None of the tunnels connect yet.”

“They don’t?” Ewan’s eyes widened as it dawned on him that he hadn’t seen any other tunnels. “No...they don’t.”

The two boys stared at one another in silence. Evening enfolded them; soon, darkness. “They must have crawled through the branches,” Hadyn surmised, but he hardly sounded convinced. “Are you sure you didn’t see them?”

Ewan rolled his eyes. “Hello? Big, black flappy things. Yes, I’m sure.” He grabbed one of the tubes, shook it again. “This band looks like ivory, but it’s hard to tell in this light.”

“Reminds me of one of mom’s necklaces.”

Ewan grabbed the end and twisted. “Only one way to find out.”

This time Hadyn didn’t argue or analyze. Curiosity had gotten the best of him. The lid twisted off with surprising ease, followed by a thin hiss of sealed air. Ewan wrinkled his face. “Smells old. Yuck. Turn on your flashlight. Mine is getting weak.”

He tapped the open end against the palm of his left hand. The coiled edge of a piece of thick, cream-colored parchment slipped out. Hadyn leaned in closer. Ewan gingerly teased the scroll out. It had a heavy grain of woven cotton, with rough edges trimmed in gold foil. Both boys let out a long slow breath. Neither the silver moon hung off the treeline, nor the winking stars, provided light enough to clearly see. Hadyn turned on his flashlight as his brother unrolled the parchment. The paper was larger than normal, rich to the touch. Pinning both ends to the ground, both boys read at once the simple message beautifully scripted on the inside in golden ink: “You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

“Dude!” Ewan whistled softly. “Looks like something from King Arthur. What in the world are the Hidden Lands?”

Hadyn, who actually loved the lore of King Arthur—and Ewan knew it—was already reaching for another tube. Ewan followed his lead. Within twenty seconds, all four tubes were opened, and four identical parchments lay spread on the ground in the dark, illuminated only by flashlights. Golden ink glimmered, subtly shifting hues. Each bore the exact same message.

“You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

Hadyn grabbed the four sheets, quickly rolled them up, and inserted each back into its thin metal sleeve. “We need to head home before Dad gets worried,” he said. “You take two and I’ll take two. Stick them under your shirt and act cool. I have no idea what these are. But for now, they’re our little secret.”

He puffed up for a moment, the older brother. Still out of sorts with the world.

“And none of your games, either, Ewan. I mean it. I’m not in the mood.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm Not Crazy, But I Might Be a Carrier!

My Review:I don't know about you, but I was instantly hooked when I first saw this title. Here was someone a lot like me. Well, it turns out, Charles Marshall is nothing like me. He is hilarious! He has some random flights of whimsy and funny angles of perception that should give you some chuckles with a tasty morsel of Truth in the middle. I'm Not Crazy, But I Could Be A Carrier is kind of like a devotional, but not. It's written in 40 short chapters of two or three pages, each with some laughs over one subject or other that we either can relate to or have relatives that it applies to. Before the chapter is over, though, he drops a nugget of truth from the Scripture. It often surpriss me, but it really works with the stories he puts together. I like the first chapter, which appears below, having been human for several dogs myself. There's a good one about Black Holes in our homes ( I know I have more than one), and just this past week I experience the pain of "Disfunctional Computer Relationships." "Marital Tips for the Groom-to-be" should be part of every fiancé's pre-nuptial education. In case I haven't made it clear, this book is a hoot. I hearlity recommend it for anyone. It can easily be read one chapter at a time, unless you are like me and can't stop with just one. A merry heart is good medicine, and this is just what the Doctor ordered.

It's the 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his book:

Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)


Charles Marshall began his career onstage as a singer/songwriter. When his singing voice gave out, he turned to stand-up comedy and was much more successful. He is now a nationally syndicated Christian humor columnist and has contributed to Focus on the Family magazine. He is the author of Shattering the Glass Slipper: Destroying Fairy Tale Thinking Before It Destroys You and has filmed two stand-up comedy videos, I'm Just Sayin' and Fully Animated.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (April 17, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 082543419X
ISBN-13: 978-0825434198


Chapter 1 Going to the Dogs

My wife and I have been thinking about getting a dog, lately, and discussing what type we might get. For me, there is really only one possibility—and that, of course, is a real dog.

For the uninitiated, there are three basic types of dogs:

1] Real dogs. These are dogs as God originally made them—monstrous, made-for-the-outdoors hunting machines that are perfect for intimidating neighbors and attracting lawsuits.

The ownership rule for guys and dogs is simple: the bigger the dog, the cooler you look. Walk down the street with a Pekingese and you might as well be wearing a tutu.

When you observe a man walking down the street with a massive real-dog, his message to you is clear. “Yes, I’m overcompensating for my insecurities and lack of masculinity but I’ve got a really big dog.”

Now that’s the kind of attitude I can get behind.

2] Mutant rat-dogs, otherwise known as Chihuahuas. These poor creatures are the unintentional result of secret experiments conducted by the Mexican army in a failed attempt to create the ultimate weapon by cross-breeding bats and Great Danes. The only surviving result of these experiments is a group of nervous, angry little rat-dogs that decided to take their revenge on humanity by being annoying on just about every level known to mankind.

If you are approached by one of these aberrations of nature, know that it despises you with a hatred rarely seen outside the Middle East, and that it won’t hesitate to tear your ankles to shreds. These dogs are the piranhas of the canine world and would nuke

mankind tomorrow if they thought they could get away with it. Under no circumstance should one of these animals be allowed to run for public office.

3] Kitty-dogs, which is every kind of dog that does not fall into one of the first two categories. I’m all in favor of this type of dog because, hey, girls have to have dogs, too.

The curse of the kitty-dog is that there are those who take a warped delight in dressing them up like people. Most dogs would rather be subjected to Mexican weapons experiments than go through this type of torture.

I cannot say this in strong enough terms: You should never, ever dress up your dog for any reason whatsoever. Take it from me—even if it were thirty below outside, your dog would rather die with dignity in his own fur coat than live while being seen in a little poochie parka.

If you dress your dog, you need to know two things:

1] The rest of us are making fun of you behind your back.

2] Every day your dog prays for a heaven where he gets to dress you up in humiliating costumes while he and his doggie friends point at you and laugh for all eternity.

If you feel you absolutely must dress an animal, go dress one that at least has a chance of defending itself like a cougar or a wolverine or a Chihuahua.

One of the most amazing things about the three dog types is that for every one of them, there is someone that likes that kind of dog. At this very moment, there are people risking the loss of fingers and eyes while they stroke their vicious little rat-dogs, all for the sake of love.

That’s a mysterious kind of love, isn’t it—the kind that embraces the unlovely, that sees through the imperfect and loves without regard?

Let’s face it, the human heart isn’t very attractive either. Every thought we have is consumed with self. If you peel away the layers of even our most noble deeds and acts of kindness, you will find thoughts that circle back to ourselves like homing pigeons. In our hearts, we are all mutant rat-dogs.

And yet God loves us.

In the Bible, you find that same theme of an indefatigable, undefeatable love reaching out to a vicious, ungrateful humanity over and over again. I’ve found it’s a love well worth pursuing.

And so the great dog debate rages in my household, and I think my wife is coming around to my point of view. But, if by chance, you happen to see me in the neighborhood walking a Pekingese that is wearing a teeny hat and sundress, you may safely assume things did not go my way.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Interview with Darryl Sloan and BOOK GIVEAWAY

This week the CFRB is touring Chion by Irish author Darryl Sloan. Darryl was kind enough to answer some questions for me, giving me a terrific interview with a lot more insight about his writing.

Cathi: As an American, I am interested in your home area. Actually, my own heritage is
largely Irish, but it goes back many generaions. Could you tell us a little bit
about where you live?

Darryl: I live in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
Technically that makes me British, but I prefer to call myself Irish,
by virtue of the name of the island on which I live if nothing else.
I live in town called Portadown, in the Protestant community (by
virtue of nothing more than it's where I was born). As to what the
town looks like, well, I can get on my bicycle and within fifteen
minutes I can be riding through anything from peaceful, idyllic
countryside to desolate, ruined housing estates, although to be fair,
not much of the latter. Overall, I like it here a lot.

C: The main thing most of us know about Northern Ireland is the violence and
enmity between Protestants and Catholics. Was there much evidence of this
where you grew up? Has it had an effect on you?

D: The best word to describe it is tribalism. And tribalism over what I'm
not sure. You could call it a religious war, but very few of those
throwing petrol bombs on our side of the fence would go to church or
profess to be religious in any way. It's more a war over land, dating
right back to the British invasion. But I personally think the
violence kept going because of the way that opinionated parents
indoctrinated their children, and how school-friends got together into
cliques. I escaped both traps because I had level-headed parents and
because I was a geek at school - which is one of the best things a kid
can be. Being a geek makes you an outcast with popular people, and
when you're an outcast, peer pressure doesn't work, and you are able
to discover and nurture your individuality. So, no, the Troubles never
affected me. I always knew it was the biggest load of nonsense, right
from when I was a kid. Thankfully, things are much calmer these days.

C: We're touring your second book, Chion, but your first book was also about
the same junior high school. What was that novel about? Does it connect to
Chion in any way?

D: The first book, Ulterior, is set two years before the events of Chion,
in the same locale. It's the story of a boy who breaks into his school
at night and discovers sinister goings-on, involving an elevator that
travels deep into the earth. When you read both books, there is a
connection, because you find some of the same characters turning up in
each. But both books are independent. I am, however developing a third
novel, which may allow the whole thing to come together as a sort of
trilogy. But I urge readers to have no fear about jumping straight in
with Chion. It's meant to stand alone.

C: One review I read said that you were a teacher at Clounagh Junior High
School. In your biography I read that you were hired as an ICT technician.
Did your job include teaching the kids or did you just kind of gravitate
that way? What about the film clubs?

D: Ah, that's just the innaccuracy of interviewers. Technically, I'm a
humble ICT technician, although I do occasionally find myself in the
position of teaching kids, which I greatly enjoy. Some teachers find
the transition to the computer age a bit of a rocky road, and that's
where I come in.

One of the best things about the job was that the school recognised by
interest in filmmaking and encouraged me to get a Film Club rolling.
We've been running it for five years now, and we've made some
wonderful, outrageous little movies. Anything from a panther prowling
the corridors to zombies staggering along. Several are available to
watch online:

C: I can't help but wonder what the kids and staff at Clounagh Junior High thought about having two novels set there. What kind of reactions did you get from them?

D: I remember the day I walked into the Head's office and set a big
manuscript on his desk and said, "You might think I've gone made here,
but I want to show you something ..."

I've had some great feedback from the staff and kids. One of the big
surprises is how many girls like my stuff, because I'm writing what
you would normally think of as boys' adventures. But that's great.
Every September, when a new bunch of 200 kids shows up, I hijack one
of their English periods and talk to them about Chion. Usually, about
one out of every five kids bites, and it allows me to sell copies to
raise money for a Bulgarian orphanage that the school supports each
year through various fund-raising events. It's not as altruistic as it
sounds. I can't very well bring a profit-making enterprise into my
place of employment. :-)

C: From your website I see that you have a lot of interests in the arts: film
making, writing, an composing music. I think video games as well, am I

D: Yeah, I seem to be overly creative. Always have been. Drawing and
painting, too, in the old days.

C: What would you say is your main interest, or do you have one?

D: Of necessity, I've had to specialise, or I would never become really
good at any one thing. So writing is what comes tops. I'm still
heavily involved in filmmaking, but it's not quite as important to me
as writing. I miss making music, though. It's been a few years since I
sat down at the keyboard and composed.

C: What are you working on right now?

D: I'm developing the Chion follow-up, but that's purely mental work, and
it might be years before it meshes together properly. I'm also about
to commence making a new film with my friend Andrew Harrison. Together
we are Midnight Pictures, and we've been making movies since the early
nineties. It's a horror movie, that's about all I can tell you at the
moment. We do this kind of thing for fun, with no commercial intent,
but there's potential there.

C: Now to the novel, Chion. Was there anything in particular that 'inspired '
you to write it?

D: The story took years to develop in my mind. Then it just sort of sat
around in there. I finally started writing it a couple of weeks after
my mother died of cancer. I'm not sure whether that was significant or
not, but it may not be an accident that Chion is all about a boy who
lives with the reality of a terminal illness. I didn't write that
aspect in, because of my mother; it was already there in the story,

But I may have wanted to write it because I had been through what I
had been through, watching my mother die. I don't know for sure. What
I do know is that I have very little motivation to write when it's for
nothing more than entertainment. And Chion had that something extra.

C: What does the title mean?

D: It was hard to find the right title for the novel. It was originally
to be called "The White Cage," but I'm glad I found a better title.
"Chion" is a derivative of the ancient Greek word "chiono" which means
snow. Drop the "o" and it means "like snow." There is some debate
about the correct pronunciation, but I go with kai-on.

C: Could you tell us in your own words a little synopsis of what Chion is

D: Well, imagine you are out driving your car in the middle of winter.
Suddenly you see spots of snow landing on the windshield. Suddenly the
wipers stop, mid-swipe. Suddenly all four of your tyres burst and your
car jerks to a sudden halt. You sit there for a moment, stunned. You
can hear popping all around you. The same thing is happening to other
cars. You open the door and put one foot out onto the snow-speckled
road. Suddenly you find you can't lift your foot, so you slip your
foot out of your shoe and place it back in the car. Your shoe appears
to be glued to the ground. The car is glued to the ground, too. And
the wipers are glued to the windshield. Horrifyingly, there's a
pedestrian nearby who is struggling to remove his fingers from the
spot where he touched his chest. In his struggle he falls to his knees
and can't get up. The snow continues to fall. Eventually, he falls to
the ground completely, and screams and screams until the snow smothers
him. Whatever has falled from the sky is not snow. It's something no
one has ever seen before. And worst of all, it won't melt.

That's not a direct scene from the novel, but one of many possible
scenarios. I invite the reader to contemplate the implications of a
disaster like this, and how people might try to survive it. Especially
ask yourself if rescue is possible.

C: Without giving away any spoilers, what would you like the readers to take
away from Chion?

D: We can spend our lives ignoring the harsh reality that we are going to
die. Chion is about having the inevitability of death brought into
sharp focus, where the characters are forced to contemplate not only
the fact that they will die, but that they will die soon. It's a story
about how different people react differently, and ultimately it's
about finding meaning in a life that's mortal.

C: Thanks so much for chatting with me, Darryl.

D: Thanks for your questions, Cathy.

You can find more information about Darryl and his books, plus some very interesting blogs, at Darryl's website

Please visit the other CFRB blogs this week. Grace Bridges has an taped interview on hers, from a meeting with Darryl a few days ago. It's cool to hear the two of them talking. Just click on the buttons below to go to the different sites.

Other members who put up information, but not original reviews:

Rebecca Wire (Welcome to
Karina Fabian (Virtual Book Tour de 'Net)
Geralyn Beauchamp (The Time Mistress)
Rae Byuel (our newest member at CFRB)

OH!! And one more thing . . . have I mentioned that Darryl will be choosing one name to win a free copy of his novel? This one's coming all the way from Ireland, so I think it should be open for other countries besides the U.S. this time. Of course, that means you'll have to leave a comment on at least one of the blogs to get in the drawing.

Sunday, August 3, 2008



Chion by Darryl Sloan

Everyone ran to the window when they heard the screams. The students looked down to the ground outside the school and saw people standing and laying down in the snow, screaming as if their life depended on it. What was going on? Why did they just stay in the strange positions? And why was everyone else standing back, huddling at the door?

Turns out this was no ordinary snow. It was a weird adhesive that immediately stuck everything that touched it, like a super super glue. And worse yet, it didn’t melt even when hot water was poured on it. Even worse yet, all 650 students plus staff had to stay in Clounagh Junior High overnight, then...for how long?

This little novel raises some interesting and disturbing questions. How would a person react in a life and death situation, trapped in one place with hundreds of other people and no foreseeable way out? What about food? How long will the supplies in store last?

Jamie Metcalfe had more on his mind than just the weird snow. He carried a terrible secret that changed his outlook on everything. And he discovered that he was particularly concerned that one other person survive, no matter what else happened to him or anyone else. Tara had to survive somehow, and as he lay in the dark, Jamie came up with a desperate plan. But what would it cost? He decided to act on his plan in faith.

Chion (a Greek work for snow, or “like snow”) is a book that has already proven itself as a hit with junior high students in Northern Ireland (where author Darryl Sloan lives and works). It isn’t your average Christian thriller, and Jamie acts much like a boy of his age might if he were intelligent enough. While Tara is constantly wondering about Jamie’s faith, it is never overtly preaching anything. But the elements are there. While it is aimed at middle grades, the questions raised make it a book that adults will also enjoy.

Oh, and by the way, I'll be posting an interview with this very interesting Irish author on Tuesday.

Darryl Sloan's website:

Book Details:

Chion by Darryl Sloan
fantasy (2006) Midnight Pictures
ISBN 0-9543116-1-2

To purchase a copy: go here.

Other blogs involved in the August blog tour of this little gem include:

And members who will be posting basic information about the novel:
People who will post synopsis, cover, purchase info only:

Rebecca Wire (Welcome to
Karina Fabian (Virtual Book Tour de 'Net)
Geralyn Beauchamp (The Time Mistress)
Rae Byuel (our newest member at CFRB)