Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!


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




Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Three Weddings & a Bar Mitvah


Summary

Newly engaged Lelani has returned from Maui to Bloomberg Place and is trying to book her wedding date. Unfortunately there are scheduling conflicts for that same weekend.

For starters, Megan and Marcus have a family wedding commitment. Anna and Edmond have promised to attend his younger stepbrother's Bar Mitzvah and, to everyone's surprise, Kendall has just accepted her "Maui Man's" proposal of marriage and also wants to be wed on that first weekend in June.

Wedding madness ensues at 86 Bloomberg Place, yet at the same time friendships are being forged that will last a lifetime.

David C. Cook (2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Melody Carlson has published more than one hundred books for adults, children, and teens, with many on best-seller lists. Several books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards, including the Gold Medallion and the RITA Award. She and her husband live in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and have two grown sons.

Visit the author's website.

Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah, by Melody Carlson from David C. Cook on Vimeo.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: David C. Cook (2009)
ISBN: 1589191080
ISBN-13: 9781589191082

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Megan Abernathy


“Okay, then, how does the second Saturday in June look?” Anna asked her housemates.


Megan frowned down at her date book spread open on the dining room table. She and Anna had been trying to nail a date for Lelani and Gil's wedding. Megan had already been the spoiler of the first weekend of June, but she'd already promised her mom that she'd go to a family reunion in Washington. Now it seemed she was about to mess things up again. “I'm sorry,” she said, “but I promised Marcus I'd go to his sister's wedding. It's been scheduled for almost a year now, and it's the second Saturday too. But maybe I can get out of it.”


Lelani just shook her head as she quietly rocked Emma in her arms, pacing back and forth between the living room and dining room. The baby was teething and fussy and overdue for her afternoon nap. Megan wasn't sure if Lelani's frustrated expression was a result of wedding planning or her baby's mood.


“Is it possible you could do both weddings in one day?” Anna asked Megan.


“That might work.” Megan picked up her datebook and followed Lelani into the living room, where she continued to rock Emma.


“Or we could look at the third weekend in June,” Anna called from the dining room.


“Shhh.” Megan held a forefinger over her lips to signal Anna that Emma was finally about to nod off. Megan waited and watched as Emma's eyes fluttered closed and Lelani gently eased the limp baby down into the playpen set up in a corner of the living room. Lelani pushed a dark lock of hair away from Emma's forehead, tucked a fuzzy pink blanket over her, then finally stood up straight and sighed.


“Looks like she's down for the count,” Megan whispered.


Lelani nodded. “Now, where were we with dates?”


“If you still want to go with the second Saturday,” Megan spoke quietly, “Anna just suggested that it might be possible for me to attend two weddings in one day.”


“That's a lot to ask of you,” Lelani said as they returned to the dining room, where Anna and Kendall were waiting expectantly with the calendar in the middle of the table and opened to June.


Megan shrugged as she pulled out a chair. “It's your wedding, Lelani. You should have it the way you want it. I just want to help.”


Anna pointed to the second Saturday. “Okay, this is the date in question. Is it doable or not?”


Lelani sat down and sighed. “I'm willing to schedule my wedding so that it's not a conflict with the other one. I mean, if it can even be done. Mostly I just wanted to wait until I finished spring term.”


“What time is Marcus's sister's wedding?” asked Anna.


“I'm not positive, but I think he said it was in the evening.” She reached for her phone.


“And you want a sunset wedding,” Kendall reminded Lelani.


“That's true.” Anna nodded.


“But I also want Megan to be there,” Lelani pointed out.


“That would be helpful, since she's your maid of honor,” said Anna.


Megan tried not to bristle at the tone of Anna's voice. She knew that Anna had been put a little out of sorts by Lelani's choice--especially considering that Anna was the sister of the groom--but to be fair, Megan was a lot closer to Lelani than Anna was. And at least they were all going to be in the wedding.


“Let me ask Marcus about the time,” Megan said as she pressed his speed-dial number and waited. “Hey, Marcus,” she said when he finally answered. “We're having a scheduling problem here. Do you know what time Hannah's wedding is going to be?”


“In the evening, I think,” Marcus said. “Do you need the exact time?”


“No, that's good enough.” Megan gave Lelani a disappointed look. “I'll talk to you later, okay?”


“You're not thinking of bailing on me, are you?” He sounded genuinely worried.


“No, but we're trying to pin down a time and date for Lelani.”


“It's just that I really want my family to meet you, Megan. I mean all of my family. And I want you to meet them too.”


“I know, and I plan to go with you.”


“Thanks. So, I'll see you around six thirty tonight?”


“That's right.” Megan told him good-bye, then turned to Lelani with a sigh. “I'm sorry,” she told her. “That wedding's at night too. Maybe I should blow off my family reunion so that you--”


“No.” Anna pointed to the calendar. “I just realized that the first Saturday in June is also my mother's birthday.”


“So?” Kendall shrugged. “What's wrong with that?”


Megan laughed. “Think about it, Kendall, how would you like to share your wedding anniversary with your mother-in-law's birthday?”


Kendall grinned. “Oh, yeah. Maybe not.”


“How about a Sunday wedding?” suggested Megan.


“Sunday?” Lelani's brow creased slightly as she weighed this.


“Sunday might make it easier to book the location,” Kendall said. “I mean, since most weddings are usually on Saturdays, and June is a pretty busy wedding month.”


“That's true,” agreed Megan.


“And you gotta admit that this is short notice for planning a wedding,” added Kendall. “Some people say you should start planning your wedding a whole year ahead of time.”


“Marcus's sister has been planning her wedding for more than a year,” Megan admitted. “Marcus says that Hannah is going to be a candidate for the Bridezillas show if she doesn't lighten up.”


They all laughed.


“Well, there's no way Gil and I are going to spend a year planning a wedding.” Lelani shook her head. “That's fine for some people, but we're more interested in our marriage than we are in our wedding.”


“I hear you.” Kendall laughed and patted her slightly rounded belly. She was in her fifth month of the pregnancy. They all knew that she and her Maui man, Killiki, were corresponding regularly, but despite Kendall's high hopes there'd been no proposal.


“I really don't see why it should take a year to plan a wedding,” Megan admitted. “I think that's just the wedding industry's way of lining their pockets.”


“So how much planning time do you have now anyway?” Kendall asked Lelani. “Like three months?”


“Not even.” Lelani flipped the calendar pages back. “It's barely two now.”


“Which is why we need to nail this date today,” Megan said. “Even though it's a small wedding--”


“And that remains to be seen,” Anna reminded her. “My mother's list keeps growing and growing and growing.”


“I still think it might be easier to just elope,” Lelani reminded them. “I told Gil that I wouldn't have a problem with that at all.”


“Yes, that would be brilliant.” Anna firmly shook her head. “You can just imagine how absolutely thrilled Mom would be about that little idea.”


Lelani smiled. “I actually thought she'd be relieved.”


“That might've been true a few months ago. But Mom's changing.” Anna poked Lelani in the arm. “In fact, I'm starting to feel jealous. I think she likes you better than me now.”


Lelani giggled. “In your dreams, Anna. Your mother just puts up with me so she can have access to Emma.”


They all laughed about that. Everyone knew that Mrs. Mendez was crazy about her soon-to-be granddaughter. Already she'd bought Emma all kinds of clothes and toys and seemed totally intent on spoiling the child rotten.


“Speaking of Emma”--Kendall shook her finger--“Mrs. Mendez is certain that she's supposed to have her on Monday. But I thought it was my day.”


“I'm not sure,” Lelani admitted. “But I'll call and find out.”


“And while you've got Granny on the line,” continued Kendall, “tell her that I do know how to change diapers properly. One more diaper lecture and I might just tape a Pamper over that big mouth of hers. Sheesh!”


They all laughed again. Since coming home from Maui, Kendall had been complaining about how Mrs. Mendez always seemed to find fault with Kendall's childcare abilities. In fact, Mrs. Mendez had spent the first week “teaching” Kendall the “proper” way to do almost everything.


To be fair, Megan didn't blame the older woman. Megan had been a little worried about Kendall too. But to everyone's surprise, Kendall turned out to be rather maternal. Whether it had to do with her own pregnancy or a hidden talent, Megan couldn't decide, but Kendall's skill had been a huge relief.


“Now, back to the wedding date,” said Lelani.


“Yes,” agreed Megan. “What about earlier on Saturday?”


“Oh, no,” Anna said. “I just remembered that I promised Edmond I'd go to his brother's bar mitzvah on that same day--I think it's in the morning.”


Lelani groaned.


“Edmond's brother?” Megan frowned. “I thought he was an only child. And since when is he Jewish?”


“Remember, his mom remarried,” Anna told her. “And Philip Goldstein, her new husband, is Jewish, and he has a son named Ben whose bar mitzvah is that Saturday.” She sighed. “I'm sorry, Lelani.”


“So Saturday morning is kaput,” Megan said.


“And Lelani wanted a sunset wedding anyway,” Anna repeated.


“So why can't you have a sunset wedding on Sunday?” Kendall suggested.


“That's an idea.” Megan turned back to Lelani. “What do you think?”


Lelani nodded. “I think that could work.”


“And here's another idea!” Anna exclaimed. “If the wedding was on Sunday night, you could probably have the reception in the restaurant afterward. I'm guessing it would be late by the time the wedding was over, and Sunday's not exactly a busy night.”


Lelani looked hopeful. “Do you think your parents would mind?”


“Mind? Are you kidding? That's what my mother lives for.”


“But we still don't have a place picked for the wedding,” Megan said.


“I have several outdoor locations in mind. I'll start checking on them tomorrow.”


“We'll have to pray that it doesn't rain.” Megan penned 'Lelani and Gil's Wedding' in her date book, then closed it.


“Should there be a backup plan?” asked Anna. “I'm sure my parents could have the wedding at their house.”


“Or here,” suggested Kendall. “You can use this house if you want.”


Anna frowned. “It's kind of small, don't you think?”


“I think it's sweet of Kendall to offer.” Lelani smiled at Kendall.


“I can imagine a bride coming down those stairs,” Kendall nodded toward the staircase. “I mean, if it was a small wedding.”


“I'll keep it in mind,” Lelani told her. “And your parents' house too.”


“It might be tricky getting a church reserved on a Sunday night,” Megan looked at the clock. “And speaking of that, I better get ready. Marcus is picking me up for the evening service in about fifteen minutes.” She turned back to Lelani. “Don't worry. I've got my to-do list and I'll start checking on some of this stuff tomorrow. My mom will want to help with the flowers.”


“And my aunt wants to make the cake,” Anna reminded them.


“Sounds like you're in good hands,” Kendall sad a bit wistfully. “I wonder how it would go if I was planning my wedding.”


“You'd be in good hands too,” Lelani assured her.


“Now, let's start going over that guest list,” Anna said as Megan stood up. “The sooner we get it finished, the less chance my mother will have of adding to it.” Megan was relieved that Anna had offered to handle the invitations. She could have them printed at the publishing company for a fraction of the price that a regular printer would charge, and hopefully she'd get them sent out in the next couple of weeks.


As Megan changed from her weekend sweats into something presentable, she wondered what would happen with Lelani's parents when it was time for the big event. Although her dad had promised to come and was already committed to paying Lelani's tuition to finish med school, Lelani's mom was still giving Lelani the cold shoulder. Make that the ice shoulder. For a woman who lived in the tropics, Mrs. Porter was about as chilly as they come. Still, Lelani had friends to lean on. Maybe that was better than family at times.


“Your prince is here,” Kendall called into Megan's room.


“Thanks.” Megan was looking for her other loafer and thinking it was time to organize her closet again. “Tell him I'm coming.”


When Megan came out, Marcus was in the dining room, chatting with her housemates like one of the family. He was teasing Anna for having her hair in curlers, then joking with Kendall about whether her Maui man had called her today.


“Not yet,” Kendall told him with a little frown. “But don't forget the time-zone thing. It's earlier there.”


“Speaking of time zones,” Lelani said to Marcus. “Did I hear you're actually thinking about going to Africa?”


Marcus grinned and nodded. “Yeah, Greg Mercer, this guy at our church, is trying to put together a mission trip to Zambia. I might go too.”


“Wow, that's a long ways away.” Kendall turned to Megan. “How do you feel about that?”


Megan shrugged as she pulled on her denim jacket. “I think it's cool.”


“Are you coming with us to church tonight, Kendall?” Marcus asked. “Greg is going to show a video about Zambia.”


“Sorry to miss that,” Kendall told him. “But Killiki is supposed to call.”


“Ready to roll?” Megan nodded up to the clock.


He grinned at her. “Yep.” But before they went out, he turned around. “That is, unless anyone else wants to come tonight.”


Lelani and Anna thanked him but said they had plans. Even so, Megan was glad he'd asked. It was nice when Kendall came with them occasionally. And Lelani had come once too. Really, it seemed that God was at work at 86 Bloomberg Place. Things had changed a lot since last fall.


“So are you nervous?” Marcus asked as he drove toward the city.


“Nervous?” Megan frowned. “About church?”


“No. The big interview.”


Megan slapped her forehead. “Wow, I temporarily forgot. We were so obsessed with Lelani's wedding today, trying to make lists, plan everything, and settle the date … I put the interview totally out of my mind.”


“Hopefully, it won't be out of your mind by Monday.”


“No, of course not.”


“So … are you nervous?”


Megan considered this. It would be her first interview for a teaching job. And it was a little unsettling. “The truth is, I don't think I have a chance at the job,” she admitted. “And, yes, I'm nervous. Thanks for reminding me.”


“Sorry. Why don't you think you'll get the job?”


“Because I don't have any actual teaching experience.” She wanted to add duh, but thought it sounded a little juvenile.


“Everyone has to start somewhere.”


“But starting in middle school, just a couple of months before the school year ends? Don't you think they'll want someone who knows what they're doing?”


“Unless they want someone who's enthusiastic and energetic and smart and creative and who likes kids and had lots of great new ideas and--”


“Wow, any chance you could do the interview in my place?”


“Cross-dress and pretend I'm you?”


She laughed. “Funny.”


“Just have confidence, Megan. Believe in yourself and make them believe too. You'd be great as a middle-school teacher.”


“What makes you so sure?”


“Because I remember middle school.”


“And?”


“And most of my teachers were old and dull and boring.”


“That's sad.”


“And I would've loved having someone like you for a teacher.”


“Really?”


He chuckled. “Yeah. If I was thirteen, I'd probably sit right in the front row and think about how hot you were, and then I'd start fantasizing about--”


“Marcus Barrett, you're pathetic.” Just the same, she laughed.


“What can I say? I'm just a normal, warm-blooded, American kid.”


“Give me a break!” She punched him in the arm.


“Is that your phone?” he asked as he was parking outside of the church.


“Oh, yeah, a good reminder to turn it off.” She pulled it out to see it was Kendall. Megan hoped nothing was wrong. “Hey, Kendall,” she said as Marcus set the parking brake. “What's up?”


“Guess what?” shrieked Kendall.


“I have no idea what, but it sounds like good news.” She stepped out of the car.


“Killiki just called.”


“That's nice.”


“And he asked me to marry him!”


Megan raised her eyebrows and looked at Marcus as he came around to meet her. “And you said yes?”


“Of course! Do you think I'm crazy?”


“No. Not at all. Congratulations, Kendall. I mean, I guess that's what you say.”


“So now we have two weddings to plan.”


Megan blinked. She walked with Marcus toward the church entry. “Oh, yeah, I guess we do.”


“And I'm getting married in June too!”


“That's great, Kendall. I'm really, really happy for you. And Killiki seems like a great guy.”


“He is! Anyway, we just looked at the calendar again. And we finally figured that I should just get married the same day as Lelani, only I'll get married in the morning. That way we'll all be able to go to both weddings.”


“Wow, the same day?”


“Otherwise, you'll be at your reunion or Marcus's sister's wedding. Or Anna will be at the bar mitzvah. Or Lelani and Gil will be on their honeymoon.”


“Oh, that's right.”


“And I want all of you there!”


“Yes, I suppose that makes sense.”


“It'll be busy, but fun.”


“Definitely.” Then Megan thanked Kendall for telling her, and they said good-bye. Megan closed her phone and just shook her head. “Wow.”


“Kendall's getting married?” asked Marcus as he held the church door open for her.


“Yes. Can you believe it?”


“Good for her.”


“And her wedding will be the same weekend as your sister's and the same day as Lelani's.”


Marcus held up three fingers and wore a perplexed expression. “Three weddings in one weekend? That's crazy.”


“Yep.” Megan nodded. “Three weddings and a bar mitzvah.”


“Huh?” Marcus looked confused, but they were in the sanctuary, and Megan knew she'd have to explain later.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Three Weddings and a Bar Mitzvah by Melody Carlson. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The TRANSFORMATION BIBLE: A Closer Look


If anyone is seriously considering buying a new study Bible,I am sure you want to know a little bit about its features. In today's article I intend to examine a few of the features that make the Transformation Study Bible unique.In the introductory section of this Bible is a diagram that describes the following features:
  • Introductions--at the beginning of each book
  • Book Outlines--providing the key theme and key verse of each book
  • Book Overviews--a conversational overview for each book
  • Be Transformed--about life-changing impact of each book
  • Catalyst Notes--discuss important themes and character issues
  • Study Notes--approx. 10,000 expository notes for key passages
  • Cross References--links to other verses in Bible that relate to current verse
  • Maps--full color; keyed to the NLT
  • Dictionary-Concordance

All study Bibles have links or cross references in a middle column between two columns of text, notes at the bottom of each page and some sort of concordance in the back. Most of them also have some maps to assist in studying. And of course, they have notes to go with the passages. These notes, however, are basically taken from the 50 study books in the Be series. From the few Bibles I have used, this one is perhaps the most detailed.


A couple of the special features that set this apart are the "Be Transformed" section of the introductions and the "Catalyst" notes. I chose a couple of examples to show you (intentionally short ones so it won't get too tedious for anyone)

"Be Transformed"
(this is from
the introduction to Hebrews)
The letter to the Hebrews opens with an important declaration: "God...has spoken to us through his Son" (1:1-2). Near the close of the book, the writer stated, "Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the one who is speaking" (12:25). In other words, the theme of Hebrews seems to be "God has spoken; we have his Word. What are we doing about it? What we need to do about God's Word is to respond in faith. His Word represents him, and one of the ultimate decisions that transforms life is our answer to the question: What are we going to do about God's invitation to trust him? Hebrew's great chapter on the heroes of faith (chapter 11) presents not only practical and challenging examples of faith but also a key warning about the centrality of faith in dealings with God. "It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek him" (11:6). The writer of Hebrews give us a beautiful unfolding picture of the superiority of Jesus in every way. Faith is a reasonable response to who Jesus is because no one is like him. No matter who we compare to Jesus (and Hebrews contains some of the main candidates), no one can compare. He is ultimately worthy of trust. That's why he can say to us, as he said to his disciples, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me" (John 14:1). Learning to trust Jesus this way will result in living a transformed life.


Catalyst ( taken from 2 Corinthians 3:7-13)
Catalyst: Radiating the Glory of God
Under the old covenant, only Moses ascended the mountain and had fellowship with God; but under the new covenant, all believers have the privilege of communion with Him. Through Jesus Christ, we may enter into the Most Holy Place (Heb. 10: 19-20)--and we don't have to climb a mountain. Moses reflected the glory of God, but you and I may radiate the glory of God. When we meditate on God's word and in it see God's Son, then the Spirit transforms us! We become more like the Lord Jesus Christ "as we are changed into His glorious image" (2 Cor 3:18). This wonderful process cannot be achieved by keeping the law. The glory of the law faded away, but the glory of God's grace continues to increase in our lives.


Study Notes

This was chosen at random, again looking for brevity. It's very hard to find a short note; Wiersbe is quite deep. The verse is Luke 20: 25, when Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God."

The note here: Jesus desires that we live as good citizens when we obey the authorities fir the Lord's sake. When obedience to God conflicts with obedience to man, then we must put God first (Acts 4:19-20, 5:29), but we must do it in a manner that is honorable and loving.


Not wishing to make this interminable long, I shall stop with these examples. I hope it gives the readers something to think about. As far as I can see, the Transformation Study Bible is an excellent study tool and, hopefully, one that help transform lives.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Be Transformed!


"Don't copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasant and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)"

The verse on the cover of the Transformation Study Bible sums up the basic emphasis in Dr. Warren Wiersbe's notes and observations for this new study Bible. The Word of God has the power, is the power, to transform lives. Reading, meditating on, studying and applying scripture are essential to maturing as a Christian and growing cl
oser in a relationship with God. To this end, a good study Bible is a great tool for any serious student of the Bible.

These days there are any number of study Bibles on the market, and many of them are veryhelpful. I think back to the days when the only study Bible I knew was Scofield's; I still have my prized and marked-up copy to this day. Nowadays there are study and reference Bibles for teens, for women, for pastors, for kids, for recovery and for just about every translation available.

And so the question is: why another study Bible? What's so special about this one? (I know that's two questions, but they're connected, okay?)

First, this one is the New Living Translation. Although the first edition came out in 1996, there were a few changes in 2004 and 2007 editions. Although it is listed as a translation, some consider it a paraphrase because of some of the very modern phrasing and word choices.
It seems to me that if it is a paraphrase, it is still close enough to a translation to be quite reliable. The advantage is that this is an easy-to-read version, making it accessible for those who are newbies and the young. There is also a very helpful website at newlivingtranslation.com

The real difference, though, is that the general editor, the man responsible for the study supplements of this Bible is Dr. Warren Wiersbe. Dr. Wierbe has been called "the pastor's pastor" because of his encouragement to ministers (from B&B Media Group press release), and Billy Graham has called him "one of the greatest Bible expositors of our generation." The notes and extra material in the study Bible are largely based on the 50 books in Wiersbe's BE series--Be Mature, Be Wise, Be Strong, Be Courageous... you get the idea. I have been in Bible study groups myself that used several of these books, each one going deep into one book of Bible (or in a few cases, several small books that are grouped together). What has always impressed me about his books is the depth that is still quite understandable for the average Bible student. Wiersbe has the gift of teaching, in my opinion, and is one to finds theme, outlines, and teaching points in each passage. These are the strengths of The Transformation Study Bible: Wiersbe's excellent teaching gift accompanying the text to make it accessible to all seeking to understand, from pastor to housewife to college student to everyman.

If you get copy of the Bible, I strongly urge you to take the time to read the introductory material. This includes an excellent foreword, "What Your Bible Will do for You if You Will Let It" and a graphic detailing the components of the study bible (introductions, outlines, book overviews, catalyst note, study notes, "be transformed" portions, and maps). I'll go into these components in a more complete manner tomorrow.

From what I have seen reading out of this Bible over the past three weeks, I believe it is a good product and a welcome addition to anyone's Bible study tools. Tomorrow I will go into further depth on individual parts of the supplements.


Product information copied from Christianbook.com. Information will vary for softcover and leatherbound products.
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 2100
Vendor: David C. Cook
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
Dimensions: 9.25 X 6.25 X 2.50 (inches)
ISBN: 143476527X
ISBN-13: 9781434765277







Winner of FOREVER RICHARD and NEVER CEESE

And the winner of the Thirsting for Blood duo is................bigguysmama!! It might have helped her to have three posts, but there were quite a few more to add from my other blog sites. Congratulations, Mimi!

I can't give away books every time, but I will as often as possible. I hope you will check out the books I write about in any case; I have decided to only blog about books that I feel are worthwhile. This means you probably won't see any negative reviews here (although I may point out some things I see as weaknesses), but I don't think this is my purpose. My purpose, my mission if you will, is to connect readers with worthwhile books that present a Christian worldview.

Monday, September 21, 2009

WINNER from CFRB Blog Tour of Mohamed's Moon

And the winner is {*drum roll*}....David Brollier!!

Usually the winners of my giveaways are not members of the group doing the reviews, but in this case, I knew David threw his name into the hat so he could give it to the library where he works. He left comments with all of the bloggers. To be honest, I was disappointed with the sparsity of comments all around although we know there was a fair mount of traffic with readers during the tour. Hopefully, some of you who read our reviews will decide to get a copy of your own. It's definitely a worthwhile book.

Transformation Study Bible--Overview

This week I am thrilled to be a part of the reviewers examining the new Transformation Study Bible, compiled by Warren Wiersbe. I'll be doing several posts during the week looking at different parts of the Bible and Dr. Wiersbe. Now here's the official book trailer and blurb from the publisher, David C. Cook

One of the most anticipated and comprehensive Study Bibles of the year, The Transformation Study Bible has been a lifetime in the making by a man who is the former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago, an internationally known Bible teacher, and someone who has given his life to a deep examination of the Word of God.

For over thirty years, millions have come to rely on the timeless wisdom of Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe's "Be" Commentary series. Dr. Wiersbe's commentary and insights on Scripture have helped readers understand and apply God's Word with the goal of life transformation.

Rely on Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe to guide you through Scripture and lead you in real-life transformation. Uncover the profound truths of God's Word. Apply what you learn with a new sense of purpose. This is a must-own Bible for everyday use by all Christians who want to get more out of their study of Scripture.

Available everywhere Bibles are sold, online and in stores. List price varies from $24.99 for a paperback copy, $34.99 for hardcover, and upward for leather bindings. I found prices much lower than this at Amazon, Family Bookstores, and Christianbook.com online. This Bible was released on September 1, 2009.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

End of Sue Dent/ Vampires and Verevulf Veek: So How is it Okay For Christians to Read?


Now I'm no theologian and no expert on the genre, but I will attempt to answer one of the questions often asked about a book about vampires and werewolves that appeals to Christians: Is it Christian? Remember, this is just my opinion, but I hope it will be helpful to any who read it.

Firs of all I want to let you in on my on preferences. I don't care for horror at all--not in literature nor in movies. It just doesn't interest me, although I could go further at another time, another place. My preferences run to historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery, and I have many friends who have no interest in any of those genres. I have never read any other book about vampires or werewolves. The only vampire movies I have seen were a couple of the old black and white ones and George Hamilton's Love at First Bite, which I thought was pretty funny. Oh, and a couple of Abbott and Costello movies, also pretty funny. Werewolves? I saw Michael Landon's I Was a Teenage Werewolf, those black and white movies with Lon Chaney Jr., and Michael J. Fox's movie. That's it, and that's all I cared to know. So my knowledge of the lore and how others have portrayed the beings is extremely limited. I can't tell you how Sue's characters stack up next to any others, although I do know that she has added her own touches to the legends. And why not? From what I hear, so did Anne Rice (and I have no intention of reading her older work to find out more about it--I'm pretty sure her pre-conversion books are too erotic for Christian mores).

Initially I was drawn to buy a copy of Never Ceese after reading a couple of reviews written by Christian reviewers. And originally I bought it for a teenager I know who was deeply interested in dark things like vampires and all the Goth stuff. My hope was that this would help turn her back to more Godly things. It wasn't dark enough for her at the time (which really worried me), but she liked it and also read some other titles that I found. I'm happy to say that this girl has done quite a turn-around spiritually in the couple of years in between; I don't know if Never Ceese was a part of it or not. It may have been. Since then, I have seen messages left for Sue on Shoutlife, messages written by fans of the Twilight series who love her stories. Never Ceese came out before those books, so this wasn't any jumping on the band wagon for Sue Dent. Coincidence? I doubt it. I can't help but believe that God had a hand in the timing so that an alternative would be there for those who are drawn to such a genre, to such stories, an alternative with a Christian worldview.
Photobucket
Photobucket
How is this a Christian worldview? First of all, there are some Christian elements even in the old superstitions of the older vampire/werewolf stuff. Why is there such an aversion to crosses and all things holy? Yes, I know, there's garlic and wolf's bane, too, but the cursed ones cannot abide any mention of God or scripture and are kept at bay by crosses. This reminds me of a passage from C. S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength, where the workaholic Mark is asked to desecrate an image of Christ on the cross (I don't have the exact details; someone borrowed my book), at which point he started wondering why this was so important to them. Mark never even thought much about Jesus Christ before, just rejecting him out-of-hand, but the insistence on rejection and hateful treatment of the image seemed overkill. Why such rage at the pitiful image? It's the same thing with the atheists in America who are so enraged by any referenced to God or Christ, no matter how innocent it might be (I had many Hindu and Buddhist students who thought the teaching of the Bible were valuable, and they didn't understand this venomous attack against all things Christian, either). So it is with the aversion to all things Godly in the vampire/werewolf mythos. The very fact that crosses and even the name of God or anything to do with the Bible cause them pain leads us to the cause: these are curses from the Devil and the demons--at the very least a deep oppression from them--that can not stand anything holy. Neither do they like the daylight: creatures of darkness under the curse of the Prince of Darkness. The light will bring to light the deeds of evil.

One of the new elements Sue Dent add to her story is the possibility of redemption. I like this because it is true of the character of God: none of us are beyond His redemptive power. Her beings are still able to be saved from eternal damnation as long as they don't curse another human being, that hope that saves Penelope early on and leads her to encourage Richard and Ceese in the first book. Throughout the second book, Richard and Ceese are both able to speak of God and the Bible, even touch and read the Bible, and although there isn't any preaching scene, the truth of redemption through Jesus Christ is still there. Merideth and Penny both ask Ceese and Richard if they have made the decisions and accepted Jesus as Savior. I won't tell you the answers received, but suffice it to say that the importance of salvation through a relationship with Jesus Christ is there.

Is this a book for everyone? I doubt it. But if you know someone who is into such things as vampire lore or the Twilight phenomena, even Harry Potter, I suggest considering the books for them. They will thank you for it. Just don't try getting in their faces afterward--follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as to how much to speak of spiritual things with them. I believe it's a good gift for non-Christian fans of such genres also. While Christianity is there, it doesn't clobber anyone over the head in a way that might turn off non-Christians. It is basically a good story that comes from a Christian world viewpoint. I remember once reading a comment Sue left for a young fan at shoutlife where she told her not to worry too much about writing something with a Christian viewpoint because for a Christian that just comes naturally. I'm not sure if that's totally true, but I think it holds for those who are walking closely with the Lord. Is it for everyone? Again, I doubt it, but I have also seen some reviews from people who didn't expect to like it, others who don't care for horror, but who were won over by Richard and Ceese. Then again, I don't think these books are really horror, even if Never Ceese made the short list for a Bram Stoker Award (for those who are ignorant like me, Bram Stoker wrote the original Dracula). It's one of those in-betweeners that can appeal to a cross-over of several audiences. Think about it. If not for yourself, for someone you know.

DON'T FORGET--I'M GIVING AWAY A COPY of Forever Richard and Never Ceese. If the winner already has Never Ceese, I will choose a second name for that book. I think you can read Forever Richard and figure it out without having read the first book, but it helps to know the previous story. All comments on all of the week's blogs will count in the drawing on Tuesday, Sept. 22. So you might end up with more than one entry.




  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934284033
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934284032



You can purchase Forever Richard from the publisher, The Writers' Cafe Press (free shipping in the U.S.), Barnes and Noble , Amazon.com, or get an autographed copy from Sue here. If you want a copy of Never Ceese, you can order directly from Sue Dent herself at the Forever Richard site, but it's on the NEVER CEESE page. It's available in stores everywhere: I just don't know which ones. You might try asking for it at a local bookstore; even if they don't have it, they should be able to order it since it is distributed through Spring Arbor (main distributor for Christian book stores) and through Ingram for regular book stores.


Sue Dent's blog and website can be found at http://www.foreverrichard.com.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meet the Cast of FOREVER RICHARD


The characters in Forever Richard are well developed and compelling, even the annoying ones. A look at the cast helps to know the story.



The main characters: Richard and Ceese

Richard (played by Stevie Mac of Shoutlife.com) and Ceese (played by Hannah Hokstad, daughter of author Caprice Hokstad) are brother and sister, but they didn't know that when they first met in Never Ceese. In fact, they fought like cats and dogs--make that werewolf and vampire. Eventually, though, they accepted who they were and that they needed to work together to find a way to lift their curses. Oh, the curses? Well, it turns out that Ceese had been cursed by a werewolf and Richard had been bitten by two vampires when they were young. Now, the curses lifted, they find themselves back 'home' in England where there are some big surprises for both of them. Richard has mellowed considerably since the vampire is gone. He really cares about people now, but that brings new problems. Ceese was thrilled to get back and see her dear friend Penelope again, but she wasn't counting on the oppressive sway still held over her by the werewolf who had cursed her. She also wasn't prepared to face the truth about her mother and her father.



Supporting Actresses: Penelope and Cassie

This may be a bit of spoiler, but Penelope is still alive. In fact, she's better than she had been for years. Her connection to Ceese was what made Ceese want to return, but Richard was completely thrown off guard. He had thrown a tantrum when he thought Penny was dead, and there she is alive again. Penny is the most spiritual of the characters, it seems, one who has long wanted to see Richard and Ceese come to terms with God. But when her dreams come true, it isn't what she had hoped for. Richard was different from the man she fell in love with, and she is confused about it all. Now add to that the presence of Cassie, who thought Penny was her grandmother (they really are related, but a few more generations removed than that). Cassie has fallen for Richard, so now there is a weird kind of romantic triangle. It makes for some tensions that were unexpected.



Supporting Actors: Rodney, Merideth, and Brendan with significant minor roles by Geoffrey, Josh, and Kyle

Rodney is the main carry-over from Never Ceese. He's a real screw-up who only cares for himself. That is, until he met Ceese. The two of them have a strange attraction that no one else can understand, but Ceese feels better when he's around, and he actually will do shat she asks of him. She can still get inside his head even though the werewolf is gone, but besides that, he's fiercely protective of her. The others only put up with him for Ceese's sake.

Merideth was a surprise entry who was hinted at in the end of Never Ceese. Yes, he's Ceese and Richard's father. How is that possible? I imagine you can guess. Neither Richard nor Ceese want to accept that their father, the godly preacher, could have been cursed. Truth be told, I am still struggling with that one. All I know is that it actually has to do with his love for his kids, and the answers are only hinted at in this book. Mystery still to be revealed in Book Three. Merideth is a bit wimpier than I expected, going off into fits of despair rather easily. For vampires who aren't supposed to get emotional, Merideth and Richard (back in the day) can certainly get upset.

And the family reunion continues with the appearance of Brendan. He makes me think of a Highlander mountain man whose been chewed up and spit out and tougher than rawhide. Yet the big lug is a teddy bear when it comes to Ceese and Richard. He isn't a werewolf, but...well, you'll see.

Then there are the other guys who all add a lot to the story. Kyle is the least important in a way, other than his connections and the fact that he has more of a heart than Rodney does. Poor Josh is the reason they make the trip back to England: he was cursed by the evil scientist-turned-vampire and is such an addictive personality that he is in great danger of passing on the curse in his weakness. He and Merideth hit it off well. Sometimes Josh and Kyle add comic relief; sometimes they make bigger contributions. Finally, there is a marvelous butler named Geoffrey. Butler par excellence who saves the day many times over. Kind of like Batman's Alfred, except he isn't thrown into a tizzy with vampires and werewolves running around the house. He might be my favorite character in the book.



The Bad Guys: Zade and Dr. Henderson
Ah, yes, the diabolic duo whose dastardly deeds drive the drama. Another weird pairing since vampires and werewolves do not get along and play nicely together. Henderson, however, convinces Zade that they can help each other accomplish their individual goals. Zade doesn't realize that the goal for both of them is Ceese, but for completely different reasons. Their evilness is kind of cliché, but it works for this tale. These are the guys you love to hate, the ones for whom we have no sympathy at all. Kind of like the devil and his demons.


Next Entry: The Spiritual Elements




  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934284033
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934284032



You can purchase Forever Richard from the publisher, The Writers' Cafe Press (free shipping in the U.S.), Barnes and Noble , Amazon.com, or get an autographed copy from Sue here. If you want a copy of Never Ceese, you can order directly from Sue Dent herself at the Forever Richard site, but it's on the NEVER CEESE page.


Sue Dent's blog and website can be found at http://www.foreverrichard.com.


Oh! And don't forget! I'll be giving away copies of both Never Ceese and Forever Richard on Tuesday, Sept. 22. All those who comment on this week's posts will be included, so if you comment more than once, your name is entered more than once!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Forever Richard--the Saga Continues


(WARNING: If you haven't read Never Ceese yet, there will be some spoilers, but I'll try to keep them to a minimum.)

Forever Richard picks up the saga of those suffering siblings Ceese (Cecelia) and Richard Porter. Both were cursed way back over 200 years ago; Ceese was cursed by a werewolf and Richard by two vampires. The story began in the novel Never Ceese, which I reviewed in former blogs here and here. So the saga continues right where Never Ceese ceased. It's hard to write anything at all here without giving away the ending of the first book, but you all an probably guess that Ceese and Richard found some sort of redemption or else there couldn't be a sequel. Yes, they are both pretty much normal people now and can talk about God without wincing. Even read the Bible. So shouldn't they just go on about their business and live happily ever after? Well, it's not that simple. In the first book there was this very evil scientist who used Richard's DNA to become a vampire himself. Immediately, he cursed poor drug-addict Josh who was just trying to be helpful for once. So there's a new wrinkle. The result is that the whole crew travels to England on Richard's dime in hopes of taking care of Josh's problem. And for some reason, soon to be reveled, Ceese has incessantly talked about "going home" since they left the hospital.

There are a lot of humorous bits scattered throughout the tale: often at the expense of Rodney, Josh, and their buddy Kyle. This motley crew are unlikely heroes, but they come in handy for both comic relief and some surprising contributions along the way.

Back in England, there are surprises galore for Richard and Ceese, and the rest of the gang are on a steep learning curve. Several new characters are introduced, each enriching the story in his or her way. There are more vampires and werewolves running and flying all over the place, and some of the evil ones have wicked desires concerning Ceese and Richard. A couple of returning characters who we met in England before are further developed, weaving a great character-driven tale that will keep readers losing sleep until they reach the last page.

And when the readers reach the last page...they are going to yell at Sue like I did! No! You can not end it this way!! AARRGGHH! I HATE cliffhangers! How am I going to last until Book Three comes out?? NOT FAIR!

But, if you are at all like me, you'll read it and enjoy anyway. I've gone through it twice now, and I'll probably go through both books a time or two more before Cyn No More is released. (*grumble, grumble*)

The Thirsting for Blood series is kind of considered young adult, especially since many of the Twilight fans love it. (By the way, this series started BEFORE Twilight was released; Sue Dent wasn't playing off the success of any other books; it just happened this was. Or is it by the design of a Higher Power?) However, the books are just as enjoyable for adults. And, as hard as it may be to imagine, Sue Dent writes from a Christian worldview. While the stories are very entertaining, humorous, and creative, the spiritual side is definitely present. So try it; you'll like it!

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934284033
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934284032


You can purchase Forever Richard from the publisher, The Writers' Cafe Press (free shipping in the U.S.), Barnes and Noble , Amazon.com, or get an autographed copy from Sue here. If you want a copy of Never Ceese, you can order directly from Sue Dent herself at the Forever Richard site, but it's on the NEVER CEESE page.

Sue Dent's blog and website can be found at www.foreverrichard.com .

Oh! And don't forget! I'll be giving away copies of both Never Ceese and Forever Richard on Tuesday, Sept. 22. All those who comment on this week's posts will be included, so if you comment more than once, your name is entered more than once!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's Sue Dent Week!!

On my blog, anyway, it's Sue Dent Week all week long. Richard and Ceese, vampire and werewolf, romance and evil, faith and despair. The FIRST Wild Card Bloggers put up the first chapter of Forever Richard on Friday of last week, but I wanted to do more than a couple of paragraphs about Sue Dent's Thirsting for Blood series. So I've decided to go a bit more in-depth with several blogs stretched out over the week. I hope this will create a thirst for more of the stories.

For one of the readers who comments on this weeks posts, there will be an extra-special surprise: a copy of BOTH of Sue's books. The name that I draw next Tuesday will receive both Never Ceese and Forever Richard!

Today starts off with a little about Sue and the first chapter of Forever Richard. Enjoy and come back!



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.

Forever Richard is the second book in the Thirsting for Blood series. The prequel, Never Ceese was short-listed for a Bram Stoker Award and also voted the ACFW’s book club choice for April 2007. Ms Dent is currently working on the third book in the series.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934284033
ISBN-13: 978-1934284032

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The blazing mid-morning sun laid a haze over the southwestern landscape. José squinted at the distant horizon. “Mirada que está viniendo,” he said. “It’s him.”

The day laborers loitered on corners hoping for work in the fields—backbreaking work that paid little. Not the type of work they wanted but because most of them lived in the country illegally, they hadn’t a lot of choice. The laborers worked long hours for little pay, which was attractive to employers—so attractive they’d risk breaking the law to hire them.

The men had to watch for Border Patrol agents, so they scrutinized every gringo with a careful eye.

José’s buddies squinted in the direction he’d indicated. Raul pushed himself off the wall where they sat. “I thought you saw him leave town—for good.”

“Yeah,” Antonio seconded. “Qué tal? You can’t see good or something? Maybe you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

For several weeks they’d watched this stranger. No one knew when he’d arrived or how long he planned on staying. They did know they wanted him gone. Both a gringo and an outsider—the combination usually meant trouble.

José watched the giant of a man approach. His long black duster billowed; his boots stirred up a dust storm around him. José boldly took a step forward. Raul watched and his lips curled into a smirk. Who did José think he was kidding anyway?

“What you gonna do, hombrecito? The little man gonna take the big man on? He’ll squash you like that little bug.”

José, desperate to earn respect among his peers, ignored the comment and squared his shoulders.

* * *


The small immigrant town of Rio Lobos could have easily been a mirage. Surrounded by dry, flat desert, like the desert he’d spent the past two days walking through, he considered this possibility. Not until he stepped onto solid pavement did he believe otherwise.

Heavy boots marked each step as he moved along. His long duster no longer billowed but flapped freely. He’d tucked his left sleeve into a front coat pocket to prevent it from blowing about but with no left arm inside, the sleeve hung slack.

In town, he stepped onto a sidewalk. Worn and beaten by the elements, sections of it were in dire need of repair—the curbs, crumbling chunks of concrete. The entire town needed a facelift. Colorful pennants, strung about and flapping in the hot, arid breeze did little to disguise this.

The most modern building was the bank. It sat on the adjacent corner and boasted a display below the bank name that alternated time and temperature: 9:47 AM and a scorching 97 degrees. Sweat beaded and rolled down into his thick beard. He scratched at it but stopped short of complaining. After all, the beard had offered his face some protection against the stark rays of the blazing desert sun. Yet, a curse for the one responsible for his present condition was never far from his lips.

Blasted werewolf! If it hadn’t been for the creature, he wouldn’t have to worry about hair that grew twice as fast as normal. The bite wasn’t the only thing to worry about when battling a werewolf.

His stomach growled. Two days had passed since he’d eaten anything. The five young migrant workers on the corner watched him arrive and stared belligerently as he drew near. One of the five took an aggressive step forward. The stranger slowed when he saw the young worker but walked on by. No one followed.

La Tienda sat next to the laundromat. The tantalizing aroma of authentic Mexican cuisine lured him across the street.

Those standing around the entrance scattered. Startled patrons inside moved as far away as possible as he stood between them and the door. Mothers gathered their small children. The young lady who worked the counter wore a nametag, Maria. She stifled a scream and backed up against the wall. Someone hissed the word gringo and he understood.

“Aye, gringo,” he said, his Scottish accent strong. “I get that. I’m different. But I don’t want any trouble.”

Trapped in bodies that wanted to run, a dozen pairs of eyes watched him go about his business. Careful not to make any sudden moves and frighten the patrons further, he walked slowly to the counter and gathered up foil-wrapped burritos from beneath a heat lamp. One by one, he placed them in a deep pocket of his coat.

“See,” he told them. “I just want to eat . . . and now I’m going to pay.” He reached into his pocket for cash but had to guess at what he owed. Maria wasn’t talking. He laid down a ten, grabbed a styrofoam cup and filled it with coffee, then headed to a group of tables and chairs near the back of the store and sat. A mass exodus followed as anxious patrons darted out. Maria disappeared into the back.

A ceiling fan warbled overhead and kept the hot air circulating. He set his coffee down and took the burritos from his pocket. He devoured the first one in no time. After a few more bites of another, he could finally think about more than his next meal—like the events of the previous evening.



Tobias had eluded him for years, but he hadn’t given up looking. The werewolf had information and he was desperate to hear it. After nearly a century of traipsing across continents—Europe, Asia and now North America—he’d finally found him.

Tobias knelt and drank from a stream, his shirt beside him. The moon’s glow heightened the appearance of well-defined muscle. Tobias could easily overtake him. He had to move with care.

He took a cautious step closer, pushed the fabric of his duster back giving him easy access to the pistol-grip sawed-off shotgun holstered on his thigh.

Tobias tensed; he sniffed the air—his cupped hands froze in mid-drink. His head turned a sliver to stare at the abstract reflection in the stream. The stranger drew his weapon and in one fluid motion Tobias stood and turned. Eyes black and narrowed, his nose wrinkled at the odor of silver.

“Aye, did ye think I’d come unprepared?” When Tobias didn’t answer he asked, “Do ye speak English, lad?”

Tobias tilted his head, his thick brows furrowed in confusion. Maybe his accent confused, so he worked to tame it before speaking again. This time Tobias nodded.

“Then tell me why ye have run from me all these years.” He kept the shotgun level. “All I ever wanted was to ask some questions.” Why had Tobias let me sneak up on him tonight? Maybe it’s a trap? He pressed the gun barrel against the chest of the werewolf. “Ye don’t have friends around waiting to pick me off, do ye? If so, then ye should know—I’ll kill ye first.”

The breath of the werewolf turned to vapor in the cooler night air. “Tobias alone.” Stilted werewolf English, but still English. “Tobias wait for you. Tobias need—help. Help Tobias.”

Stunned eyes stared back. “Help Tobias? Away with ye! Why should I help when ye have been running from me for so long?”

Tobias glanced over his shoulder and found the moon where it hung, crescent in shape. “Tobias forget.”

“Tobias forget?” He followed Tobias’s gaze then nodded. “Ahh, Tobias forget—forgotten how to become the wolf. Ye have gone too long without transforming.” They never saw the danger until it was too late. “Yet ye remember ye need the moon, don’t ye . . . to draw the blood up, to get things going.”

Tobias turned back to face him. “You help Tobias remember more.”

As a subtle reminder, he shoved the gun barrel against Tobias’ chest. “Tell me what I want to know. Besides, what makes ye think I can help?” He could help, of course. But he didn’t give this information away freely. He didn’t need every werewolf who’d forgotten tracking him down.

“You help Gideon.”

His expression fell. “Great. Gideon shared.” Even after he promised that he wouldn’t.

“Help Tobias like you help Gideon.”

His eyes narrowed. “Aye, but first, ye pay my price. Tell me. You know the werewolf Joachim. Ye ran with his pack. What became of him? Where is he now?”

“Joachim? Joachim is no more.”

The words hit him hard. All these years of waiting, hoping—it couldn’t be true. “Ye lie!” he growled. He had to be. He moved in closer to Tobias and forced the end of the gun under his chin. “Ye’ll tell me the truth or I’ll blow your head clean off!”

“Tobias show you.”

“All right.” He brought the gun back down to chest level and allowed Tobias to put an open palm to his forehead.

The first image: two wolves thrashing it out, teeth bared and bloodied, eyes blazing with intent. It ended when one of the wolves went down and she rushed forward. He gasped and Tobias removed his hand.

“She killed Joachim,” Tobias spat out. “She the reason he is no more.”

“Ye will not speak of her like that. Ye won’t!”

“Joachim is no more because of her! He fight Zade for her.”

“Where is she now? Ye have to know.”

Tobias reached into a pocket, took out a trinket on a thin chain and held it up.

A lump formed in his throat; moisture played in the corner of each eye. “Where’d ye get that, lad? Where in the world did ye get that?”

“Tobias take it from Joachim.”

He batted back the moisture to regain some composure. “Doesn’t prove anything. Ye still haven’t told me where she is or if she is.”

“Hold tight. If she is, you know. If she isn’t, you know too.”

He considered this. “Aye, but I’ll need my hand for that and I canna say I trust ye enough to holster my weapon. But—” he said, “if ye hold the locket—maybe that will work.”

Tobias placed his left palm back to the stranger’s forehead and held the trinket tight in his other hand.

Images flashed. A castle, a feeling. “Aye, I see her. She’s alive.” He furrowed his brow. “. . . sort of.” Tobias took his hand away. “Now put that necklace in my breast pocket.”

“You help Tobias?” the werewolf replied.

“Aye, of course.” After all, that was the deal. He couldn’t use the information himself. He wasn’t cursed. But, having the information and the ability to share it—on occasion there had been a definite advantage to that.

He’d have to holster the shotgun to free up his hand to initiate the action. “This is going to be bit tricky,” he admitted, not certain he wanted to risk putting his weapon away and give up the advantage. But Tobias seemed ready to cooperate. He put his apprehension aside and slid the gun back into its holster.

With his hand on Tobias’ forehead, the flow of information could begin. Several attempts to get things going ended in failure. What was wrong?

“Ye block me. I canna help if ye block me.”

With no more coercion than that, Tobias let his mental guard down.

“Aye, that’s better.” He’d helped several other werewolves remember the way. Some took the information quickly. Some didn’t. Often he could help speed things up by focusing. He closed his eyes but they shot back open when he felt sharp claws dig into his wrist. Tobias had already begun the transformation.

“Aahh!” He fought the instinct to pull away. Tobias could take his only arm if he wasn’t careful. The pressure increased. “For the love of God,” he exclaimed.

Tobias stiffened and his hand jerked before he fell backwards onto the ground. The stranger ratcheted his shotgun from his holster. “Aye. That’d be a word ye canna tolerate.”

On the ground, Tobias continued the rapid transformation—the human form faded further until the new looked at home on all fours. Soon, it sprinted off into the woods.

“Good riddance,” he yelled out after him, “you ungrateful beast.”

* * *


The migrant workers still loitered. The same young man who’d shown aggression the first time moved directly in his path.

When he angled to go around, the guy matched him step for step. Dark intimidating eyes met his. “I don’t want any trouble,” he said. “I just want to get by.” He searched the young man’s face for any sign of compromise.

“You gotta pay to get by, gringo.”

That word again. “I can’t give ye what I don’t have.”

A quick look over his shoulder to the others and the young man tensed his forearms. “Well, you better come up with something or you’ll have to deal with us, right, muchachos?”

Arms crossed, they nodded.

“All right,” he said. “I do have one thing.” He reached into a pocket and drew out his hand, closed. Slowly, he opened it to reveal—nothing. In another instant, his palm covered the young man’s forehead and the ringleader sank to the ground, unconscious.

The others backed away. “¡Él lo mató!” he heard one say before they all broke and ran.

“Nay,” he yelled after them. “He’s not hurt. It’s not what ye think.”

It was pointless to explain further. They’d disappeared around the corner. He sighed deep and pulled the young man along by an arm. He left him to rest under the shade of an awning.

* * *


On the outskirts of town sat the Alamo Plaza Apartments, remnants of a not-so-successful motel chain that dared defy the odds. No traveler would stop here now, only locals. You could pay by the week or ten dollars an hour, maximum two. His third prepaid week at the motel. He headed straight back to his unit.

When the stranger saw another tenant leafing through mail, he quickened his pace. He was expecting something. Perhaps it had arrived. The mail had come, but no package waited. A notice stuck to his door, the “Attempted Delivery” box marked. Tomorrow the post office would try again. He pushed past disappointment and went inside. Calling the post office did little good. The mail truck with his package was still out making deliveries and wouldn’t return until after the post office closed.

He removed his duster and let it fall across a chair near the door. He placed his shotgun on a table next to the unmade bed and lay down. Two days of walking through the desert had taken its toll. He needed to rest.

Sleep came easily enough. He recalled waking up once to find the room dark. The sun had set. The next time he awoke, it was morning, 9:45 according to the digital clock on the small bedside table. He sat up and rubbed the back of his neck. He felt rested but antsy. How would he kill time until his package came? A long shower helped, as did shaving his thick beard. But he still had at least an hour.

He settled onto the end of his bed, television remote in hand, and began channel surfing. Jeopardy. He stopped to watch. The category: Famous Wars.

The unyielding presence of this single Highland regiment caused the Russians to abandon their intention of taking Balaclava.

The contestants jumped all around the correct response. “What is the Charge of the Light Brigade?” one said. “Who fought the Crimean War?” another chimed in. The third contestant merely shrugged.

His deep-set eyes misted over in remembrance. “Aye, the thin red line—what was the thin red line.”

The thunder of hooves, the smell of death, he remembered it all. To die like they did. That would be an honor. Yet dying wasn’t an option for him. Neither was aging in a timely manner. It had something to do with the battle he had with that werewolf. He did age, though much more slowly—about a year for every fifty he’d lived, but death never came. He’d been run clean through during the battle at Balaclava, an injury that left more than a few men dead where they fell. Not something he understood—in fact, quite frustrating. He switched the television off to avoid further memories.

A solid thump against his door and then a knock. “Aye. I’m here,” he said jumping to his feet. A short sprint to the door and—no one there. He looked down to see a package at his feet.

He checked the box and brought it inside. The postage showed it had come all the way from New Delhi, India. He carefully opened it. The seller had done such a fine job of packing that it took him more than a minute to reveal the knife inside.

Its pitted blade and wooden handle reinforced with bone plates attested its authenticity. He ran his fingers over the traces of Aramaic and Hebrew inscription. “Aye,” came his breathless whisper. This had to be it, the knife of the Aqedah, the very one used by Abraham on Mount Moriah. The one he’d been searching for. He’d combed sacred parchments for any mention of the knife past Abraham, looked around at Djebel Thebeyr, where a granite block, purportedly split in two by the touch of this knife, drew tourists. Still the knife had eluded him . . . until now.

“Finally.” He stared at what he held in reverent awe.

“Finally I can end this madness.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

9/11 and MOHAMED'S MOON


September 11, 2001. It was a day that horrified not only every American but people around the world as well. The planes that slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the woods in Pennsylvania ended the lives of 2,993 in a matter of minutes.


On that most singular day of tragedy, America was shocked out of her slumber. While we knew other acts of terrorism and and savagery, we suddenly found ourselves more vulnerable than we ever suspected before.

In the wake of these attacks and the investigations to follow, we learned more and more about "sleeper cells" that have long been in place in the United States and other Western Countries. Muslims have lived quietly in our midst for years, waiting until they are called upon to do their part for Jihad, to battle with the 'infidels' of The Great Satan (the U.S.). Suddenly, more people than ever looked at every Middle Easterner with suspicion, often showing open prejudice and hostility.

Mohamed's Moon goes beyond being a good suspense novel and romance story to delve deeply into the whole American/Muslim/Christian/terrorist morass. Mohamed is a devout Muslim of the extreme sort, yet he wasn't trained to be a suicide bomber. Rather, his task was to infiltrate the system and use his intelligence to sway America to Islam. His own ideas, however, are smothered by those of the more extreme--i.e. terrorist--ilk, who consider this wedding of the Vice President and a moderate Muslim woman as a chance to take out lots of important people. What comes into play
is the more moderate types, in their efforts to be tolerant, are naively playing into the hands of the extremists. Balance comes to play, though, because not all of the Arabs are Muslim, and not all of the Muslims are hatemongers. Keith Clemons has taken great care to present the many facets of the cultures, the effects of propaganda, and the responses of Christians.

We face a bit of dilemma. How should we treat Muslims as a whole? Do we act suspicious and shun them? Should we try to befriend them and show the love of Jesus as we interact with them? Do we preach at them or show them true Christ-like-ness in our everyday lifestyle? And if we are supposed to show them love, does that mean we don't get suspicious at all about possible sleeper cells? What about the war on terrorism? What is the proper balance for a Christian? Should we try to understand how cultural differences have caused confusion and enmity?

It may be that Mohamed's Moon will raise more questions than it definitively answers, but these are questions that need spiritually sound responses.

Today, we remember a heinous plot carried out by terrorist extremists. I don't know if it would have changed anything if any of the plotters had come in contact with demonstrations of the One true God and His love. I do know that this love that comes from God has been the only thing to save many lives.




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



Don't forget, I will be drawing a name to receive a copy of Mohamed's Moon. ALL comments left on any of the CFRB blogs (concerning Keith Clemons or Mohamed's Moon) will be included in the drawing. The winner will be chosen on September 14th.






Purchase Mohamed's Moon at
Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.com and Amazon
.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

MEET THE MAN BEHIND THE MOON





Keith Clemons, author of Mohamed's Moon, as well as four other critically and financially successful novels, is in the spotlight for the Christian Fiction Blog Review this week. While I will be posting a review on Friday, today I want to share an interview with the man behind Mohamed's Moon.


**Most of the authors I know aren't able to make a living on their writing and have to have a "day job" to pay the bills. What about you?


KEITH: Alas, I have to admit this is true of me also. There will always be those who write one book and end up with a bestseller, but that’s not true for most. The vast majority of authors depend on a gradual slow build, gaining a wider reading audience with each new book until they have enough readers to provide a steady source of income. That’s certainly been true for me. For most of my writing career I’ve had to work to support my writing habit. Nonetheless, every one of my books has sold more than the one before. I actually believe my latest novel, Mohamed's Moon (which for me, is book number five), will be the breakthrough book that allows me to earn a living by my craft. And I have book number six already at the publisher waiting to follow it up.



**I read that you appear on TV and such discussing some heavy subjects. What are some of the issues that are near and dear to your heart?

K: While I want my books to be as engaging as possible, I don’t see myself as ever writing merely for the sake of entertainment. The Lord always gives me a message He wants me to convey. Thus, I wrote about the downside of euthanasia in If I Should Die, the effect Hollywood movies have on our youth in Above the Stars, the heinous act of child trafficking in These Little Ones, and the potential loss of our religious freedom in Angel in the Alley. Mohamed’s Moon, my latest novel, is geared toward helping people understand the differences between Islam and Christianity. All of these topics are as relevant as headline news, which is the very thing talk show hosts love to discuss, so, yes, I have been blessed to appear on numerous radio and television shows.



**Someone told me that your other books were self-published, yet they have all won awards? That's pretty amazing. I know you aren't the kind who looks for the glory, but what are some of the awards?

K: I have been blessed to have received six writing awards to date. If I Should Die was the winner of The Word Guild’s Christian Writing Awards, Best Contemporary Fiction category in 2004. Above the Stars won The Word Guild’s Best Contemporary Fiction in 2005 and received an Award of Merit the same year from the IPPY Awards for Religious Fiction. These Little Ones won The Guild’s Best Contemporary Fiction in 2007 and was also the winner of the TWG Independently Published fiction award. And Angel in the Alley won an Award of Merit in The Word Guild’s Independently Published Fiction category in 2008.

But while awards are great, if you’re looking for something to hang on the wall, the real miracle was the distribution I received. For a self published author to get their books into a broad base of bookstores is a nearly impossible. Yet the Lord has blessed me with the ability to get these books into virtually every Christian bookstore chain, as well as on the shelves of hundreds of independent bookstores. This, not the awards, it what has enabled me to garner such a wide reading audience.



**What was the subject matter of some of your other books? Are they all suspense?


K: Without intending to, I jumped the gun and addressed the subjects I’ve written about in a previous question, i.e. euthanasia, child trafficking, religious freedom, etc., so I won’t belabor it again, however, with respect to whether all my books are suspense, I would have to say, yes.

I don’t think I ever set out to be a mystery/suspense writer. I actually wanted to write books about people facing tough situations, how they respond, and the subsequent change it brings about. I wanted to write literature, but literature, in the classic sense, often moves too slow, so I began using mystery and suspense to hold the reader’s interest. Now I find my novels being described a real “page turners,” and the cliché “I couldn’t put it down,” being the phrase readers use most to describe how they feel about my books. That said, I still strive to use lavish descriptions to give my characters life and make the scenery real so the reader will see and feel everything the character is going through.



**
Mohamed's Moon has been published by Realms, which is a division of Strang and a pretty major player in Christian publishing. Other hopeful authors would like to know how they came to publish your novel?

K :As already mentioned, I started off by self publishing, not because I wanted to, but because I believed it was what the Lord wanted me to do. It’s a long story, and rather than be tedious in spelling it out, suffice it to say that while I was still writing my first manuscript, I sought the counsel of several men I knew and respected to get their advice. I wanted their insights on how to go about getting published. Each of these men, Ron Hembree, the president of Cornerstone Television in Pittsburgh, Grant Jeffery, a highly prolific author and speaker, and Chuck Missler of Koinonia House, had published their own work. I didn’t know this, of course. When one-by-one they each advised me to do the same, I felt the Lord was speaking to me. God often does that. He’ll tell you something you may not particularly want to hear, and then confirm it through others. The first two times I went away shaking my head saying, “That’s not for me,” but the third time I figured I better pay attention. So, with a copy of Dan Poynter’s The Self Publishing Manual under my arm, I went out and published my first book.

The way Strang entered the picture is a testimony of God’s faithfulness. Self-publishing is a hard road to take, though it does have its rewards, but by the time I’d published book number four, I was growing weary of trying to do everything myself. It’s hard enough to write a book, let alone publish and promote it. I began to pray, “Lord, I don’t know how much longer I can continue this, but I want do what You want, so if You want me to continue, please give me the strength."

Unbeknownst to me, around the same time as I was praying, my fourth book, Angel In The Alley, was read by someone who knew someone at Strang Communications. They sent them a copy and the next thing I know, I received a call from Strang asking if I would be interested in having them publish my work. It’s not often a publisher goes out of their way to sign an author; it usually works the other way around. I had always said I would continue to self publish until the Lord showed me it was time to do otherwise, so I took it that this was what He wanted. Now I’m published by the Realms imprint of Strang and have a contract for the next few books I’m to write.



**What was it that caused you to write
Mohamed's Moon in the first place?

K: I have a good friend, whose name is Mohamed, who grew up in Egypt as a Muslim. He was actually a member of President Mubarak’s personal security force when he came to know Christ. The story of his conversion and the persecution he underwent, which included several attempts on his life, inspired me to write about what Muslims experience when they embrace Christianity.

As it happened, once I started writing, the book took a different course and ended up being set in the U.S. and became less about persecution and more about comparing the differences between the two religions.

However, the idea of writing about the suffering Church didn’t go away. Hence, I have written a sequel that deals more explicitly with this topic. It is currently at the publisher’s under the working title Mohamed’s Song and is scheduled for release early next year.



**I know the main characters were not based on the life of your Arab friends, but were there some parts of their stories that were incorporated into your novel?

K: No, actually, while my friend Mohamed proved to be a valuable resource in terms of maintaining the book’s accuracy and integrity, we were careful not to incorporate elements of his own personal story. God has taken Mohamed through great suffering, but He has also given him a fantastic ministry that reaches Muslims worldwide. Mohamed teaches the Bible on the internet in Arabic, through which he has seen hundreds of Muslims come to know Christ. We are reserving his story for a book of its own.



**Your characters are all rather well developed. Who is your favorite and why?


K: That’s a really tough question. Asking an author who their favorite character is, is like asking a mother which one of her children she loves most. I like them all, I just like them for different reasons. They are flawed, to be sure, but I hope to be able to show God working through them, and ultimately so see His glory revealed in their lives. That said, if I had to pick one, it would probably be the small minor character I called Sami. He’s just an old grizzled servant, but I like the way his character reflects the good side of Muslim people.



**As I read through the book, my mind was filled with so many thoughts and questions. It would be a great book for a discussion group. What are some of the things you would hope for readers to take away with them after reading
Mohamed's Moon?


Mostly, I want them to experience God’s love, especially in contrast with the god of Islam. In Islam, Allah has ninety-nine names, or attributes, but not one of them is “love.” He is “Awesome,” “Great,” and “Powerful,” but not loving. In Christendom, the Apostle John tells us “God is love.” In Islam, God is unknowable. In Christianity, God is approachable and desires that we know Him.

While it’s not likely many Muslims will walk into a Christian bookstore and buy this book, it is my fervent hope that Christians who read it will pass it along to their Muslim friends. The vast majority of Muslims are good decent people who shun terrorism, and want nothing to do the extremism that gives Islam a bad name, but they’re still lost in a belief system devoid of hope. As with every other world religion, Islam claims that deliverance from God’s judgment depends on the good works you do, and the expectation of His mercy. Muslims everywhere need to know that God loves them, and that through Christ, and only through Christ, can they receive an absolute assurance of salvation.

I would also like to encourage Christians everywhere to pray for Muslims. I meet with my friend Mohamed and a small group of believers every Monday evening specifically for this purpose. And we know of more than fifty other groups doing the same thing.

In most Arabic countries, it is illegal to convert from Islam to Christianity. Both Iran and Egypt have laws working their way through their respective legislatures to make the crime of conversion punishable by death. Saudi Arabia will not allow Bibles into the country. The constitution of Libya states that all Libyan citizens must be Muslim. Virtually all Islamic states are closed to missionaries. But our prayers can change this.

There was a time when the Communist states of Russia and China were closed to the gospel, but the church prayed and today the walls have come down. In Russia, my friend Ilya Bantseev pastors a church located in Novokuznetsk Siberia with over a thousand believers. And the largest and fastest growing church in the world is in China. Praise God, our prayers can make a difference!



Thank you so much for your time and a lot more food for thought, Keith.

If you would like to read an excerpt from Mohamed's Moon, it is posted in a FIRST Wild Card Blog here from May.





Purchase Mohamed's Moon at
Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.com and Amazon
.

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




Don't forget, I will be drawing a name to receive a copy of Mohamed's Moon. ALL comments left on any of the CFRB blogs (concerning Keith Clemons or Mohamed's Moon) will be included in the drawing. The winner will be chosen on September 14th.