Saturday, May 31, 2008

In Memory of Harvey Korman


I was a big Carol Burnett fan. Harvey and Tim Conway were my favorite. I loved seeing them on the show, especially when Harvey would start laughing and couldn’t stop. It would crack me up. I was saddened to hear about his passing. We have lost a funny man.

My deepest sympathy to his family and fans.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Mike Dellosso’s The Hunted Blog Tour


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He writes a monthly column for Writer . . .Interrupted, was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years, has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets, and has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed Web sites and e-newsletters. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer’s Network, and International Thriller Writers. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master’s Graduate School of Divinity.

THE HUNTED

After learning of the disappearance of his nephew, Joe Saunders returns to his childhood home of Dark Hills to aid in the search effort. When Caleb is found, badly mauled and clinging to life, Joe embarks on a mission to find the beast responsible. But the more Joe delves into the fabric of his old hometown, the more he realizes Dark Hills has a dark secret, shrouded for three generations in a deadly code of silence. As Joe unravels the truth behind a series of unexplained animal attacks, murder, and corruption at the highest level of law enforcement, he is led to a final showdown where he must entrust his very life into God's hands.


Where do you get your ideas for stories?

My ideas for stories. There’s a box in my basement called the Idea Box. I wave my hand over it a couple times, chant some pretty cool things, and somehow (I’m not sure how it works) but an idea just appears in my head, fully formed, like a newborn baby. Of course, I wish it was that easy, but the fact is, I just told a fib. There’s no magic box, no hand-waving, no chanting, just an overactive imagination and a lot of mulling.

My ideas are usually born either by searching the internet for unique stories, by reading or hearing something in the news, or just by letting the leash out for my imagination to run a little wild. From there I toss around some scenarios. The challenge is taking a simple idea—a what if question or a single character—and developing it into a story that can support 80,000 to 100,000 words. It’s not always easy, in fact, it’s rarely easy. Once I find something I think I can run with I start writing and the story can change several times before everything falls in place. Ask any author, there’s no simple way to come up with an intriguing idea and grow it into a full-fledged novel-length story.

Are you a plotter or seat-of-the-pants writer?

Seat-of-the-pantser all the way. I love being surprised by my own stories. When I start a story I know where I want to start—usually the first few chapters—and most of the time where I want to end. Everything in-between is making it up as I go. I figure if I don’t know where the story is going and how it’s unfolding, there’s a good chance the readers won’t either.

That being said, I typically work a chapter or two ahead in my mind. I’m always thinking about what’s going to come next, turning scenarios around, changing them, fiddling here, tinkering there, trying to find something that grabs my fancy and has potential to build the rest of the story off of. By working several steps ahead (like a chess player, I suppose) I avoid writing myself into a corner.

Talk about your “call” to write.

My call to write was in no way gradual. It happened all at once and might as well have been God speaking directly to me. It began with a motorcycle accident that left my brother-in-law in a deep coma and a prognosis of death or, at best, persistent vegetative state. My wife, Jen, and I went to visit my sister and Darrell in the hospital and came away wrestling with emotions I couldn’t easily explain: anger, frustration, sorrow, confusion, you name it. When we got home I did the first thing that came to mind, I grabbed a pad of paper and a pen and started writing.

Now, it’s important to know at this point that I’ve always struggled with stuttering. Lots of thoughts and ideas swirled in my head but I rarely voiced them because talking was just so laborious. I often kept my emotions under lock and key because it was easier than trying to express myself in words. Well, when that pen hit paper I knew I was on to something, I felt a freedom I had not felt before. I could say what was on my mind and in my heart and say it with perfect fluency. I had found my voice! That was almost ten years ago and I haven’t stopped writing since. Oh, and by the way, Darrell pulled through and is doing just fine now.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

My favorite aspect is the first draft when everything is new and fresh and the story is unfolding. Sometimes I feel like it’s just spilling out of me and I can’t type fast enough to keep up with it. During that process I’m constantly thinking about the story, molding it like a piece of clay, trying this, trying that, seeing if something makes sense, if it fits. I love getting to know the characters, watching them develop and take on personalities of their own. Creating them.

What is one thing being a writer teach you about God?

I think part of being made in the image of God is our desire to create. I experience great joy by bringing people to life, forming a world for them to live in and things for them to do. Putting them in a situation where there is no easy out and watching how they react. I can only imagine the fun God must have had creating this world. What a wonderful thought, the Creator at play.

What do you hope to accomplish in your writing?

God’s done so much for me. He loves me while I am so unlovable. Lifted me up out of that miry clay, wrapped His arms around me, and set my feet on solid ground. Made me a new creation and gave me a new life. I’m so undeserving of His love, and yet He so willingly and freely gives it. Why wouldn’t I want to give all of me back to Him? And that includes my writing. God’s given me a gift and I want to give it back to Him to be used for His service, His Kingdom. I hope and pray my writing and my stories impact people on a spiritual level, if they don’t then I will feel like I’ve somehow failed. Really, when life is all said and done, when we get rid of all the materialism and ambition and rat race stuff, isn’t our sole purpose to glorify God? Isn’t that what it’s all about? Really? That’s what I want to accomplish with my writing . . . to just glorify God and let Him take care of the rest.

Describe the journey to your first contract.

Well, it was a nine-year journey and I’d like to say I did it “by the book.” I made some mistakes along the way but learned from them and made sure not to do them again.

I started writing non-fiction just for fun and freedom and the sheer love of putting words on paper and making sense out of what was inside me. After about a year of doing that I began writing a monthly article for my church’s newsletter. At the same time I was submitting articles and short pieces to various websites and getting some of them “published.” There was no pay, of course, but the satisfaction of seeing my creations on the screen and knowing somebody was reading them was well worth it. Heck, it’s still worth it. Gradually, I began expanding my horizons a little. I wrote a few inspirational articles for The Candle of Prayer Company and began writing a weekly column for my local newspaper, both paying jobs (yeah!).

In 2004 I saw the Christian Writer’s Guild was holding a first-novel contest. I had an idea so I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. It was harder than I thought but I was able to finish a book before the contest deadline. As much as I hoped I would, I didn’t win (I don’t even think I came close) but the experience was priceless and sparked in me a love for writing fiction.

I still thought I had a good story but knew next to nothing about the publishing industry. I sent out some proposals and got a mailbox full of rejections before a letter from a “traditional publisher” came showing interest. I put that in quotes because at the time, in my ignorance, I thought they were a real publisher and only found out later that they, indeed, were not. Anyway, I published that first book through this POD publisher, was terribly disappointed in everything about the experience, and vowed to never, ever, EVER do that again. To each his own, right?

Shortly after that frustrating ordeal I began work on another manuscript, calling it The Hunted. A year later I toted it along with me to my first writer’s conference where I met suspense author Kathryn Mackel who critiqued it, liked it, and said she’d not only endorse it but help me find an agent. A few weeks later she referred me to an agent friend of hers, Les Stobbe. Les liked my proposal and chapters, agreed to represent me, and circulated the project to various publishers. Four months later we got an email from Realms Fiction (Strang Book Group) saying they were interested in the full manuscript and a few long, endless months after that they were offering me a contract.

Mike’s Website: http://mikedellosso.com/blogtour

Mike’s Blog: http://www.mikedellosso.blogspot.com/

The Hunted Book Trailer:
http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=23973716d5bff26953d1

The Hunted First Chapter: http://mikedellosso.com/Dellosso-Hunted_ch1.pdf

List of all participating bloggers:
http://blogtourspot.wordpress.com/mike-dellosso-blog-tour/dellosso-blog-tour-stops

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blog Tour: A Bride So Fair


After growing up in an orphanage, Emily Ralston loves being around children and thoroughly enjoys her job at the Children’s Building at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. As the receptionist she helps check in the children and ensures they are safe and well cared for while their parents view the fair. She could not have known what God had in store for her…

When Columbian Guard, Stephen Bridger, drops off a three-year-old named Adam as a lost child, her life irrevocably changed. While the sparks of attraction are undeniable, Emily tries her best to ignore them as she and her best friend, Lucy, scheme to keep Adam safe and happy, far away from the orphanages they both know too well.

Soon Stephen learns about Adam’s mother while both the mystery and his relationship with Emily deepens. As they learn bits of truth, danger and deception now threaten to undermine their growing relationship. Why is a young woman murdered while surrounded by thousands of fairgoers? What secrets could a sweet, abandoned little boy possibly hold? Can Emily and Stephen solve the deadly mystery before time runs out?

Themes in the Book: Emily and Stephen’s unique love story offers a fresh and inspirational lesson of trust and betrayal, faith and doubt, the meaning of family and God’s unending goodness.


About Carol Cox

Award-winning author of twelve novels and eleven novellas, Carol shares her love of history, mystery, and romance in the books she writes. A pastor’s wife, Carol makes her home with her husband and young daughter in northern Arizona. To learn more about Carol and her books, visit her Web site at http://www.carolcoxbooks.com/

.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

CFBA AUTHOR INTRO: Tina Ann Forkner



This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing


Ruby Among Us

(WaterBrook Press May 20, 2008)

by

Tina Ann Forkner



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Tina Ann Forkner writes contemporary fiction that challenges and inspires. Originally from Oklahoma, she graduated with honors in English from CSU Sacramento before ultimately settling in the wide-open spaces of Wyoming where she now resides with her husband and their three children. Tina serves on the Laramie County Library Foundation Board of Directors and enjoys gardening, spending time outdoors with her family, and works as a full-time writer.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Sometimes, the key that unlocks your future lies in someone else’s past...

In Ruby Among Us, Lucy DiCamillo is safely surrounded by her books, music, and art─but none of these reclusive comforts or even the protective efforts of her grandmother, Kitty can shield her from the memory of the mother she can no longer remember. Lucy senses her grandmother holds the key, but Kitty seems as eager to hide from the past as Lucy is eager to find it.

From the streets of San Francisco and Sacramento, to the lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley, Lucy follows the thread of memory in search for a heritage that seems long-buried with her mother, Ruby.

What she finds is enigmatic and stirring in this redemptive tale about the power of faith and mother-daughter love.

“What an incredible story. As both mothers and daughters, Ruby Among Us struck a special cord in each of the four of us. Tina writes in a way that makes us feel like we’re there; from the first line, we were captivated and drawn into an intricate weaving of the precious and fragile relationships that define us.”
~Point of Grace~

“Reading is a passion of mine, and when I find myself identifying with the characters, anxious to get to the next page to find answers to my questions, I know I’m into a good book! The daughter-mother-grandmother theme in Ruby Among Us pulled me in. Wonderful story-telling.”
~Jordin Sparks~, 2007 winner of American Idol

“Highly recommended. If you’re a mother or daughter, you’re going to love Ruby Among Us. Forkner does an extraordinary job…. I look forward to more from this author.”
~Ane Mulligan~, Novel Journey

“Don’t miss this one! Tina Ann Forkner is a strong new voice in fiction and Ruby Among Us is an amazing story of trials, regrets, and, ultimately, redemption. Lucy and her family history in the historic wine country of Sonoma bring to life the Scriptures about the Vine and His branches.”
~Kristin Billerbeck~, author of The Trophy Wives Club


If you would like to read the first chapter go HERE

Monday, May 26, 2008

RAGU's FRESH & SIMPLE Blog Tour

I’m a fan of Ragu sauce, so when I was asked to sample their new product I was happy to do so. Ragu hasn’t lost their touch. RagĂș's Fresh & Simple Pouches is perfect for those who take their lunch to work or just want a quick snack for their kids. You just pop it in the microwave for 90 seconds and pour over your favorite pasta. How easy is that? Even your cooking age kids can do it.

So the next time you’re at the store, pick up a couple of packets and you won’t be disappointed.

Check out their site for more info you can also get a few recipes: www.FeedOurKidsWell

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

TEEN FIRST: Robert Liparulo



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


and his book:



Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)




ABOUT THE
AUTHOR:

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

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

Here are some of his titles:

Comes a
Horseman


Germ

Deadfall




AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




“A house of which one knows every
room isn't worth living in.”


—Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa






Prologue


Thirty years
ago

The walls of the house absorbed the woman’s screams,
until they felt to her as muffled and pointless as yelling underwater.
Still, her lungs kept pushing out cries for help. Her attacker carried
her over his shoulder. The stench of his sweat filled her nostrils. He
paid no heed to her frantic writhing, or the pounding of her fists on his
back, or even her fingernails, which dug furrows into his flesh. He
simply lumbered, as steadily as a freight train, through the corridors of
the big house.

She knew where they were heading, but not
where she would end up. In this house, nothing was normal, nothing as
it appeared. So while she knew in advance the turns her attacker would
take, which hallways and doors he would traverse, their destination was
as unknowable as a faraway galaxy. And that meant her taking would be
untraceable. She would be unreachable to searchers. To would-be
rescuers. To her family— and that realization terrified her more than being
grabbed out of her bed. More than the flashes of imagined cruelty she
would suffer away from the protection of the people who loved her. More
than death.

But then she saw something more terrifying: her
children, scrambling to catch up, to help. Their eyes were wide,
streaming. They stumbled up the narrow staircase behind her attacker,
seeming far below, rising to meet her. The thought of them following her into
the chasm of her fate was more than she could stand.

“Go
back,” she said, but by this time her throat was raw, her voice
weak.

The man reached the landing and turned into another
corridor.

Temporarily out of sight, her son yelled, “Mom!” His
seven-year-old voice was almost lost in the shrillness of his panic.
He appeared on the landing. His socked feet slipped on the hardwood
floor and he went down. Behind him, his little sister stopped. She was
frightened and confused, too young to do anything more than follow her
brother. He clambered up and started to run again.

A hand
gripped his shoulder, jarring him back.

The boy’s father
had something in his fist: the lamp from his nightstand! He past the boy
in the hallway. His bare feet gave him traction.

Thank
God, she thought.

He reached her in seconds. With the lamp
raised over his head, he grabbed her wrist. He pulled, tried to anchor
himself to the floor, to the carpeted runner now covering the wood
planks. But the brute under her walked on, tugging him with them. The man
yanked on her arm. Pain flared in her shoulder. He might as well have
tried pulling her from a car as it sped passed.

She caught
a glimpse of the bizarrely shaped light fixtures on the corridor
walls—mostly carved faces with glowing eyes. The bulbs flickered in time
with her racing heart. She could not remember any of the lights doing that
before. It was as though the electrical current running through the
wires was responding to a disruption in the way things were supposed to
be, a glitch in reality.

“Henry,” she said, pleading,
hopeful.

His grip tightened as he stumbled along behind
them. He brought the lamp’s heavy base down on her assailant. If the man
carrying her flinched, she did not feel it. If he grunted or yelled out,
she did not hear it.

What he did was stop. He spun around
so quickly, the woman’s husband lost his grip on her. And now facing
the other direction, she lost sight of him. Being suddenly denied her
husband’s visage felt like getting the wind knocked out of her. She
realized he was face to face with the man who’d taken her, and that felt
like watching him step off a cliff.

“Nooo!” she screamed,
her voice finding some volume. “Henry!”

His hand gripped
her ankle, then broke free. The man under her moved in a violent dance,
jostling her wildly. He spun again and her head struck the wall.

The lights went out completely . . . . but no, not the lights .
. . her consciousness. It came back to her slowly, like the warmth of
fire on a blistery day.

She tasted blood. She’d bitten
her tongue. She opened her eyes. Henry was crumpled on the floor,
receding as she was carried away. The children stood over him, touching him,
calling him. Her son’s eyes found hers again. Determination hardened his
jaw, pushed away the fear . . . at least a measure of it. He stepped
over his father’s legs, coming to her rescue. Henry raised his head,
weary, stunned. He reached for the boy, but missed.

Over
the huffing breath of the man, the soft patter of her son’s feet reached
her ears. How she’d loved that sound, knowing it was bringing him to
her. Now she wanted it to carry him away, away from this danger. Her
husband called to him in a croaking, strained voice. The boy kept
coming.

She spread her arms. Her left hand clutched at open air,
but the right one touched a wall. She clawed at it. Her nails snagged
the wallpaper. One nail peeled back from her finger and snapped off.

Her assailant turned again, into a room—one of the small
antechambers, like a mud room before the real room. He strode straight
toward the next threshold.

Her son reached the first door,
catching it as it was closing.

“Mom!” Panic etched old-man
lines into his young face. His eyes appeared as wide as his mouth. He
banged his shoulder on the jamb, trying to hurry in.


“Stay!” she said. She showed him her palms in a “stop” gesture, hoping he
would understand, hoping he would obey. She took in his face, as a diver
takes in a deep breath before plunging into the depths. He was fully in
the antechamber now, reaching for her with both arms, but her captor
had already opened the second door and was stepping through. The door
was swinging shut behind him.

The light they were stepping
into was bright. It swept around her, through the opening, and made
pinpoints of the boy’s irises. His blue eyes dazzled. His cheeks glistened
with tears. He wore his favorite pajamas—little R2D2s and C3P0s all
over them, becoming threadbare and too small for him.

“I—“
she started, meaning to say she loved him, but the brute bounded
downward, driving his shoulder into her stomach. Air rushed from her,
unformed by vocal chords, tongue, lips. Just air.

“Moooom!” her
son screamed. Full of despair. Reaching. Almost to the door.
“Mo—“

The door closed, separating her from her family
forever.




1


Now

Saturday, 4:55 P.M.

“Nothing but trees,” the bear
said in Xander’s voice. It repeated itself: “Nothing but trees.”

Xander King turned away from the car window and stared into the
smiling furry face, with its shiny half-bead eyes and stitched-on nose.
He said, “I mean it, Toria. Get that thing out of my face. And turn it
off.”

His sister’s hands moved quickly over the teddy
bear’s paws, all the while keeping it suspended three inches in front of
Xander. The bear said, “I mean it, Toria. Get that—”

At
fifteen years old, Xander was too old to be messing around with
little-kid toys. He seized the bear, squeezing the paw that silenced it.

“Mom!” Toria yelled. ”Make him give Wuzzy back!” She grabbed
for it.

Xander turned away from her, tucking Wuzzy between
his body and the car door. Outside his window, nothing but trees—as he
had said and Wuzzy had agreed. It reminded him of a movie, as almost
everything did. This time, it was The Edge, about a bear intent on eating
Anthony Hopkins. An opening shot of the wilderness where it was filmed
showed miles and miles of lush forest. Nothing but trees.


A month ago, his dad had announced that he had accepted a position
as principal of a school six hundred miles away, and the whole King
family had to move from the only home Xander had ever known. It was a place
he had never even heard of: Pinedale, almost straight north from their
home in Pasadena. Still in California, but barely. Pinedale. The name
itself said “hick,” “small,” and “If you don’t die here, you’ll wish
you had.” Of course, he had screamed, begged, sulked, and threatened to
run away. But in the end here he was, wedged in the back seat with his
nine-year-old sister and twelve-year-old brother.

The
longer they drove, the thicker the woods grew and the more miserable he
became. It was bad enough, leaving his friends, his school—everything!—but
to be leaving them for hicksville, in the middle of nowhere, was a
stake through his heart.

“Mom!” Toria yelled again, reaching
for the bear.

Xander squeezed closer to the door, away
from her. He must have put pressure on the bear in the wrong place: It
began chanting in Toria’s whiny voice: “Mom! Mom! Mom!”

He
frantically squeezed Wuzzy’s paws, but could not make it stop.

“Mom! Mom! Mom!”

The controls in the bear’s arms
weren’t working. Frustrated by its continuous one-word poking at his
brain—and a little concerned he had broken it and would have to buy her a
new one—he looked to his sister for help.

She wasn’t
grabbing for it anymore. Just grinning. One of those
see-what-happens-when-you-mess-with-me smiles.

“Mom! Mom! Mom!”


Xander was about to show her what happened when you messed with him—the
possibilities ranged from a display of his superior vocal volume to
ripping Mr. Wuzzy’s arms right off—when the absurdity of it struck him. He
cracked up.

“I mean it,” he laughed. “This thing is
driving me crazy.” He shook the bear at her. It continued yelling for their
mother.

His brother David, who was sitting on the other
side of Toria and who had been doing a good job of staying out of the
fight, started laughing too. He mimicked the bear, who was mimicking
their sister: “Mom! Mom! Mom!”

Mrs. King shifted around in
the front passenger seat. She was smiling, but her eyes were curious.


“Xander broke Wuzzy!” Toria whined. “He won’t turn off.”
She pulled the bear out of Xander’s hands.

The furry beast
stopped talking: “Mo—” Then, blessed silence.

Toria
looked from brother to brother and they laugh again.

Xander
shrugged. “I guess he just doesn’t like me.”

“He only
likes me,” Toria said, hugging it.

“Oh, brother,” David said.
He went back to the PSP game that had kept him occupied most of the
drive.

Mom raised her eyebrows at Xander and said, “Be
nice.”

Xander rolled his eyes. He adjusted his shoulders and
wiggled his behind, nudging Toria. “It’s too cramped back here. It may
be an SUV, but it isn’t big enough for us anymore.”


“Don’t start that,” his father warned from behind the wheel. He angled the
rearview mirror to see his son.

“What?” Xander said,
acting innocent.

“I did the same thing with my father,” Dad
said. “The car’s too small . . . it uses too much gas . . . it’s too
run down . . . ”

Xander smiled. “Well, it is.”


“And if we get a new car, what should we do with this one?”

“Well . . . .” Xander said. “You know. It’d be a safe car for
me.” A ten-year-old Toyota 4Runner wasn’t his idea of cool wheels, but it
was transportation.

Dad nodded. “Getting you a car is
something we can talk about, okay? Let’s see how you do.”

“I
have my driver’s permit. You know I’m a good driver.”


“He is,” Toria chimed in.

David added, “And then he can
drive us to school.”

“I didn’t mean just the driving,” Dad
said. He paused, catching Xander’s eyes in the mirror. “I mean with all
of this, the move and everything.”

Xander stared out the
window again. He mumbled, “Guess I’ll never get a car, then.”

“Xander?” Dad said. “I didn’t hear that.”


“Nothing.”

“He said he’ll never get a car,” Toria said.


Silence. David’s thumbs clicked furiously over the PSP buttons.
Xander was aware of his mom watching him. If he looked, her eyes would be
all sad-like, and she would be frowning in sympathy for him. He thought
maybe his dad was looking too, but only for an opportunity to explain
himself again. Xander didn’t want to hear it. Nothing his old man said
would make this okay, would make ripping him out of his world less awful
than it was.

“Dad, is the school’s soccer team good?
Did they place?” David asked. Xander knew his brother wasn’t happy about
the move either, but jumping right into the sport he was so obsessed
about went a long way toward making the change something he could handle.
Maybe Xander was like that three years ago, just rolling with the
punches. He couldn’t remember. But now he had things in his life David
didn’t: friends who truly mattered, ones he thought he’d spend the rest of
his life with. Kids didn’t think that way. Friends could come and go
and they adjusted. True, Xander had known his current friends for years,
but they hadn’t become like blood until the last year or so.

That got him thinking about Danielle. He pulled his mobile phone
from his shirt pocket and checked it. No text messages from her. No
calls. She hadn’t replied to the last text he’d sent. He keyed in another:
“Forget me already? JK.” But he wasn’t Just Kidding. He knew the score:
Out of sight, out of mind. She had said all the right things, like
We’ll talk on the phone all the time; You come down and see me and I’ll
come up to see you, okay? and I’ll wait for you.

Yeah, sure
you will, he thought. Even during the past week, he’d sensed a coldness
in her, an emotional distancing. When he’d told his best friend, Dean
had shrugged. Trying to sound world-wise, he’d said, “Forget her, dude.
She’s a hot young babe. She’s gotta move on. You too. Not like you’re
married, right?” Dean had never liked Danielle.

Xander
tried to convince himself she was just another friend he was forced to
leave behind. But there was a different kind of ache in his chest when he
thought about her. A heavy weight in his stomach.

Stop
it! he told himself. He flipped his phone closed.

On his
mental list of the reasons to hate the move to Pinedale, he moved on to
the one titled “career.” He had just started making short films with
his buddies, and was pretty sure it was something he would eventually do
for a living. They weren’t much, just short skits he and his friends
acted out. He and Dean wrote the scripts, did the filming, used computer
software to edit an hour of video into five-minute films, and laid
music over them. They had six already on YouTube—with an average rating of
four-and-a-half stars and a boatload of praise. Xander had dreams of
getting a short film into the festival circuit, which of course would
lead to offers to do music videos and commercials, probably an Oscar and
onto feature movies starring Russell Crowe and Jim Carrey. Pasadena was
right next to Hollywood, a twenty-minute drive. You couldn’t ask for a
better place to live if you were the next Steven Spielberg. What in
God’s creation would he find to film in Pinedale? Trees, he thought
glumly, watching them fly past his window.

Dad, addressing
David’s soccer concern, said, “We’ll talk about it later.”


Mom reached through the seatbacks to shake Xander’s knee. “It’ll work
out,” she whispered.

“Wait a minute,” David said,
understanding Dad-talk as well as Xander did. “Are you saying they suck—or that
they don’t have a soccer team? You told me they did!”

“I
said later, Dae.” His nickname came from Toria’s inability as a toddler
to say David. She had also called Xander Xan, but it hadn’t stuck.

David slumped down in his seat.

Xander let the
full extent of his misery show on his face for his mother.


She gave his knee a shake, sharing his misery. She was good that
way. “Give it some time,” she whispered. “You’ll make new friends and find
new things to do. Wait and see.”

CFBA AUTHOR INTRO: Sigmund Brouwer


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Broken Angel

(WaterBrook Press (May 20, 2008)

by

Sigmund Brouwer



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sigmund Brouwer is the author of eighteen best-selling novels for children and adults. His newest book is Fuse of Armageddon and his novel The Last Disciple was featured in Time magazine and on ABC’s Good Morning America. A champion of literacy, he teaches writing workshops for students in schools from the Arctic Circle to inner city Los Angeles. Sigmund is married to Christian recording artist Cindy Morgan, and they and their two daughters divide their time between homes in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada and Nashville, Tennessee.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Her birth was shrouded in mystery and tragedy.
Her destiny is beyond comprehension.
Her pursuers long to see her broken.
She fights to soar.

A father's love for his daughter…a decision that would change both their lives forever. But who is she really─and why must she now run for her life?

Caitlin's body has made her an outcast, a freak, and the target of vicious bounty hunters. As she begins a perilous journey, she is forced to seek answers for her father's betrayal in the only things she can carry with her─a letter he passes her before forcing her to run, and their shared memories together.

Being hunted forces Caitlyn to partner with two equally lonely companions, one longing to escape the horror of factory life in Appalachia and the others, an unexpected fugitive. Together the three will fight to reach a mysterious group that might be friend or foe, where Caitlyn hopes to uncover the secrets of her past...and the destiny she must fulfill.

In the rough, shadowy hills of Appalachia, a nation carved from the United States following years of government infighting, Caitlyn and her companions are the prey in a terrifying hunt. They must outwit the relentless bounty hunters, skirt an oppressive, ever-watchful society, and find passage over the walls of Appalachia to reveal the dark secrets behind Caitlyn’s existence–and understand her father’s betrayal.

Prepare yourself to experience a chilling America of the very near future, as you discover the unforgettable secret of the Broken Angel.

In this engrossing, lightning-paced story with a post-apocalyptic edge, best-selling author Sigmund Brouwer weaves a heroic, harrowing journey through the path of a treacherous culture only one or two steps removed from our own.

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

CFBA Author Intro: Lisa Samson


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Embrace Me

(Thomas Nelson March 4, 2008)

by

Lisa Samson



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Lisa Samson is a Christy Award-winning author of 19 books, including the Women of the Faith Novel of the Year, Quaker Summer. Lisa has been hailed by Publishers Weekly as "a talented novelist who isn't afraid to take risks."


In Embrace Me, the latest novel by acclaimed author Lisa Samson, readers are privy to the realization that regardless of outward appearances…hideous, attractive, or even ordinary…persons are all looking for the same things: love, forgiveness, and redemption.

This story explores a world that is neither comfortable nor safe, a world that people like Valentine know all too well. Masterfully crafted by Samson and populated by her most compelling cast of characters yet. It is a tale of forgiveness that extends into all spheres of life: forgiving others, forgiving oneself, forgiving the past.

She lives in Lexinton, Kentucky, with her husband and three kids.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Biting and gentle, hard-edged and hopeful...a beautiful fable of love and power, hiding and seeking, woundedness and redemption.

When a "lizard woman," a self-mutilating preacher, a tattooed monk, and a sleazy lobbyist find themselves in the same North Carolina town one winter, their lives are edging precariously close to disaster...and improbably close to grace.

Valentine, due to her own drastic self-disfigurement, ahs very few friends in this world and, it appears as if she may be destined to spend the rest of her life practically alone. But life gives her one good friend, Lella, whose own handicap puts her in the same freakish category as Valentine. As part of Roland's Wayfaring Marvel and Oddities Show, a traveling band of misfits, they seem to have found their niches in an often curiously cruel world.

Residing in a world where masks are mandatory, Valentine has a hard time removing hers, because of her disfigured face but more so because of her damaged soul. It is much easier for her to listen endlessly to different versions of a favorite song, Embraceable You, and escape reality. Yet, life has more in store for her when she meets Augustine, replete with the tattoos, dreadlocks, and his own secrets. With his arrival, Valentine's soul takes a turn.

If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE

Monday, May 19, 2008

I'm loving me some Gio

Gio from Ugly Betty told Betty, "I don't want to be the rebound guy. I want to be the guy."

OOOOh Betty you better look out.

How many of you are feeling Gio? He had me at the first sandwich. He is too cute.

Romantic too, I love a romantic guy.

Critique Partner

I'm in need of a critique partner. I'm looking for someone who writes Christian fiction. I write romance. So I'm looking for someone who likes contemporary and historical romance.

You can be published or unpublished. I need someone who has time to read a chapter or two.

I know I got out of the past group because I didn't have the time to read everyone's work. Which is why I think I'll work better with one or two versus more.

If you're interested, send me an email at - writerlch@yahoo.com

I look forward to working with you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cyber Fights

I had my first cyber fight. It wasn’t intentional but I guess it had to be done. What you haven’t heard about it? Where have you been? My name has been mud for a week now. I’m not going to rehash it here. Do a google you’ll find somebody talking about that crazy, sexually repressed LaShaunda over at SORMAG.

I learned a lot about myself during this crazy time.

1. Never say never. – I always say this because when you do it always happens. I still believe it. So I refuse to say I’ll never have another cyber fight, because you just don’t know.

2. I’m a lot stronger than I thought – There were times during this time I wanted to sign off of the internet and never come back. However the Lord opened my eyes and let me know I didn’t have to run. I have the right to stand up for myself and I have the right to promote what I want.

3. I have some great supporters online – I’ve always known that my SORMAG community was a wonderful group of people, but this week has shown me they are the best group of people ever. A big fat THANK YOU to my SORMAG community.

4. God is so good – He showed me how amazing he is and that I’m a child of his which means I’m under his protection. No weapon formed against me shall prosper. Thank you Jesus.

Its been a tough week, but you know what I survived, learned a few things and I know I can hold my head up and be proud of what I send out into the world. If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine, but you don’t have the right to make me change my mind.

So you’ll still be seeing me on net, I still have a few things to do.

Many blessings to you and thanks so much for stopping by.

FIRST: Alex and Brett Harris



It's May
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 their
book:

Multnomah Books (April 15, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHORs:

Alex and Brett Harris founded TheRebelution.com in
August 2005 and today at age 19 are the most popular Christian teen
writers on the Web. The twins are frequent contributors to Focus on the
Family’s Boundless webzine, serve as the main speakers for the Rebelution
Tour conferences, and have been featured in WORLD magazine, Breakaway,
The Old Schoolhouse, and the New York Daily News. Sons of homeschool
pioneer Gregg Harris and younger brothers of best-selling author Joshua
Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye), Alex and Brett live near Portland,
Oregon.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


MOST PEOPLE
DON’T…

A different kind of teen
book


Most people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going
to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don’t expect
you to care. And even if you care, they don’t expect you to do
anything about it. And even if you do something about it, they don’t expect it
to last.

Well, we do.

This is a different kind
of teen book. Check online or walk through your local bookstore. You’ll
find plenty of books written by fortysomethings who, like, totally
understand what it’s like being a teenager. You’ll find a lot of cheap
throwaway
books for teens because young people today aren’t supposed
to care about books or see any reason to keep them around. And you’ll
find a wide selection of books where you never have to read anything
twice—because the message is dumbed-down. Like, just for you.

What you’re holding in your hands right now is a challenging book for
teens by teens who believe our generation is ready for a change. Ready for
something that doesn’t promise a whole new life if you’ll just buy the
right pair of jeans or use the right kind of deodorant. We believe our
generation is ready to rethink what teens are capable of doing and
becoming. And we’ve noticed that once wrong ideas are debunked
and
cleared away, our generation is quick to choose a better way, even if
it’s also more difficult.

We’re nineteen-year-old twin
brothers, born and raised in Oregon, taught at home by our parents, and
striving to follow Christ as best we can. We’ve made more than our share of
mistakes. And although we don’t think “average teenagers” exist, there is
nothing all that extraordinary about us personally.

Still,
we’ve had some extraordinary experiences. At age sixteen, we interned
at the Alabama Supreme Court. At seventeen, we served as grass-roots
directors for four statewide political campaigns. At eighteen, we authored
the most popular Christian teen blog on the web. We’ve been able to
speak to thousands of teens and their parents at conferences in the
United States and internationally and to reach millions
online. But if
our teen years have been different than most, it’s not because we’re
somehow better than other teens, but because we’ve been motivated by a
simple but very big idea. It’s an idea you’re going to encounter for
yourself in the pages
ahead.

We’ve seen this idea transform
“average” teenagers into world-changers able to accomplish incredible
things. And they started by simply being willing to break the mold of
what society thinks teens are capable of.

So even though the
story starts with us, this book really isn’t about us, and we would
never want it to be. It’s about something God is doing in the hearts and
minds of our generation. It’s about an idea. It’s about rebelling
against low expectations. It’s about a movement that is changing the
attitudes and actions of teens around the world. And we want you to be part of
it.

This book invites you to explore some radical
questions:

• Is it possible that even though teens today have more
freedom than any other generation in history, we’re actually missing out
on some of the best years of our
lives?

• Is it possible
that what our culture says about the purpose and potential of the teen
years is a lie and that we are its victims?

• Is it
possible that our teen years give us a once-in-alifetime opportunity for huge
accomplishments—as individuals and as a generation?

• And
finally, what would our lives look like if we set out on a different path
entirely—a path that required more effort but promised a lot more
reward?

We describe that alternative path with three simple
words: “do hard things.”

If you’re like most people, your first
reaction to the phrase “do hard things” runs along the lines of, “Hard?
Uh-oh. Guys, I just remembered that I’m supposed to be somewhere else.
Like, right now.”

We understand this reaction. It reminds
us of a story we like to tell about a group of monks. Yep, monks.

On the outskirts of a small town in Germany is the imaginary abbey
of Dundelhoff. This small stone monastery is home to a particularly
strict sect of Dundress monks, who have each vowed to live a life of
continual self-denial and discomfort.

Instead of wearing comfy
T-shirts and well-worn jeans like most people, these monks wear either
itchy shirts made from goat hair or cold chain mail worn directly over
bare skin. Instead of soft mattresses, pillows, and warm blankets, they
sleep on the cold stone floors of the abbey. You might have read
somewhere that monks are fabulous cooks? Well, not these monks. They eat
colorless, tasteless sludge—once a day. They only drink lukewarm water.

We could go on, but you get the picture. No matter what
decision they face, Dundress monks always choose the more difficult option,
the one that provides the least physical comfort, holds the least appeal,
offers the least fun. Why? Because they believe that the more
miserable they are, the holier they are; and the holier they are, the happier
God is.

So these miserable monks must be poster boys for “do
hard things.” Right?

Wrong!

We’re not plotting to
make your life miserable. We’re not recommending that you do any and
every difficult thing. For example, we’re not telling you to rob a bank,
jump off a cliff, climb Half Dome with your bare hands, or stand on
your head for twenty-four hours straight. We are not telling you to do
pointless (or stupid) hard things just because they’re hard. And if
you’re a Christian, we’re certainly not telling you that if you work harder
or make yourself uncomfortable on purpose, God will love you more. He
will never—could never—love you any more than He does right now.

So that’s what we’re not doing. What we are doing is challenging
you to grab hold of a more exciting option for your teen years than the
one portrayed as normal in society today. This option has somehow gotten
lost in our culture, and most people don’t even know it. In the pages
ahead, you’re going to meet young people just like you who have
rediscovered this better way—a way to reach higher, dream bigger, grow
stronger, love and honor God, live with more joy—and quit wasting their
lives.

In Do Hard Things, we not only say there is a better
way to do the teen years, we show you how we and thousands of other
teens are doing it right now and how you can as well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CFBA AUTHOR INTRO: Amy Wallace



This week, the


Christian Fiction Blog Alliance


is introducing


Healing Promises


(Multnomah Publishers - April 15, 2008)


by


Amy Wallace




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:







Amy Wallace is the author of Ransomed Dreams, a homeschool mom, and a self-confessed chocoholic. She is a graduate of the Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy and a contributing author of several books, including God Answers Moms’ Prayers and Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Diabetes. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.





ABOUT THE BOOK



Facing a new threat.

When FBI Agent Clint Rollins takes a bullet during a standoff, it might just save his life. But not even the ugly things he’s seen during his years working in the Crimes Against Children Unit could prepare him for the overwhelming powerlessness of hospital tests revealing an unexpected diagnosis. If only Sara weren’t retreating into doctor mode…he needs his wife now more than ever.



Frozen in fear.

Sara Rollins is an oncologist with a mission–beating cancer when she can, easing her patients’ suffering at the very least. Now the life of her tall Texan husband is at stake. She never let the odds steal her hope before, but in this case, the question of God’s healing promises is personal. Can she hold on to the truth she claimed to believe?



Faith under fire.

As Clint continues to track down a serial kidnapper despite his illness, former investigations haunt his nightmares, pushing him beyond solving the case into risking his life and career. Clint struggles to believe God is still the God of miracles. Especially when he needs not one, but two. Everything in his life is reduced to one all-important question: Can God be trusted?



If you would like to read the first chapter, go HERE

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

CFBA AUTHOR INTRO: Mark Andrew Olsen


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Warriors

(Bethany House April 1, 2008)

by

Mark Andrew Olsen



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

MARK ANDREW OLSEN whose novel The Assignment was a Christy Award finalist, also collaborated on bestsellers Hadassah (now the major motion picture: One Night With the King), The Hadassah Covenant, and Rescued. His last novel was the supernatural thriller The Watchers.

The son of missionaries to France, Mark is a Professional Writing graduate of Baylor University. He and his wife, Connie, live in Colorado Springs with their three children.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A failed recon mission deep in the tunnels of Afghanistan has provoked a demonic onslaught that had been brewing for centuries. The mission's sole survivor is reformed black ops assassin Dylan Hatfield, and he once again teams up with Abby Sherman, now at the helm of the Watchers, an ancient spiritual force. Uncovering and preventing a secret wave of death whispered across cyberspace and threatening to be unleash against civilization will require another level of spiritual power and expertise--the Warriors.

Journeying across the Alps of Europe through the multilayered history of warfare in the unseen world, Dylan and Abby uncover an age-old stone engraving that rouses the church's Warriors to action, placing them dead center in one of the fiercest spiritual battles of their time!

And once again they are reminded: This is all part of a vast and perpetual war, a war beyond all human conflicts, one that has engulfed heaven and earth since before the dawn of history....

Abby Sherman is headed back to Israel, where a Watcher, the Sentinel of Jerusalem, lies dying. In her last breaths the old woman tells Abby of an ancient document prophesying humanity's full-scale entry into the ongoing conflict between armies of heaven and fallen angels.

Dylan Hatfield has decided to answer a summons from his old boss and join a secret operation, its mission to reconnoiter the Afghani tunnel complex from which Osama bin Laden escaped in 2001. What he discovers sears his very soul and likely will end his life.

Abby learns of the peril facing Dylan, and she sends out a call for intercession on his behalf. Her frantic email message sets in motion a series of harrowing events, propelling the two on a new mission and quest--one where the stakes are the lives of millions!

The Warriors is packed with high-octane action, featuring exotic international locales, with characters in a clash against spiritual "principalities and powers" with eternal consequences, The Warriors is a story that will enthrall, enlighten, and engage its readers.

If that piques your interest, you can read the first chapter HERE

"Olsen, one of the better writers in this subgenre, delivers powerful, action-packed plots that delve into mystical paranormal worlds."
~Library Journal, Feb. 2008

"Olsen delivers an entertaining thriller likely to be enjoyed especially by fans of the spiritual warfare genre."
~PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Monday, May 05, 2008

FIRST DAY: Lisa Samson



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

Today's feature author is:





and her book:



Finding Hollywood Nobody



Navpress Publishing Group (February 15, 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Lisa Samson is the author of twenty books, including the Christy Award-winning Songbird. Apples of Gold was her first novel for teens



These days, she's working on Quaker Summer, volunteering at Kentucky Refugee Ministries, raising children and trying to be supportive of a husband in seminary. (Trying . . . some days she's downright awful. It's a good thing he's such a fabulous cook!) She can tell you one thing, it's never dull around there.



Other Novels by Lisa:

Hollywood Nobody, Straight Up, Club Sandwich, Songbird, Tiger Lillie, The Church Ladies, Women's Intuition: A Novel, Songbird, The Living End



Visit her at her website.

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Chapter One

Hollywood Nobody: Sunday, June 4

Well, Nobodies, it's a wrap! Jeremy's latest film, yet another remake of The Great Gatsby, now titled Green Light, has shipped out from location and will be going into postproduction. Look for it next spring in theaters. It may just be his most widely distributed film yet with Annette Bening on board. Toledo Island will never be the same after that wacky bunch filled in their shores.

Today's Hottie Watch: Seth Haas has moved to Hollywood. An obscure film he did in college, Catching Regina's Heels (a five-star film in my opinion), was mentioned on the Today show last week. He was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. Hmm. Could it be he'll receive the widespread acclaim he deserves before the release of Green Light? For his sake and the film's, I hope so.

Rehab Alert: I've never hidden the fact that I don't care for bratty actress Karissa Bonano, but she just checked into rehab for a cocaine addiction. Her maternal grandfather, Doug Fairmore, famous in the forties for swashbuckling and digging up clues, made a public statement declaring the Royal Family of Hollywood was "indeed throwing all of our love, support, and prayers behind Karissa." The man must be a thousand years old by now. This isn't Ms. Bonano's first stint in rehab, but let's hope it's her last. Even I'm not too catty to wish her well in this battle. But I'm as skeptical as the next person. In Hollywood, rehab is mostly just a fad.

Today's Quote: "It's a scientific fact. For every year a person lives in Hollywood, they lose two points of their IQ." Truman Capote

Today's Rant: SWAG, or Party Favors. Folks, do you ever wonder what's inside those SWAG bags the stars get? Items which, if sold, could feed a third-world country for a week! And have you noticed how the people who can afford to buy this stuff seem to get it for free? I'm just sayin'. So here's my idea, stars: Refuse to take these high-priced bags o' stuff and gently suggest the advertisers give to a charitable organization on behalf of the movie, the stars, the whoever. Like you need another cell phone.

Today's Kudo: Violette Dillinger will be appearing on the MTV Video Music Awards in August. She told Hollywood Nobody she's going to prove to this crowd you can be young, elegant, decent, and still rock out. Go Violette!

Summer calls. Later!



Monday, September 15, 4:00 a.m.

Maybe I'm looking for the wrong thing in a parent.

I turn over in bed at the insistence of Charley's forefinger poking me in the shoulder. "Please tell me you've MapQuested this jaunt, Charley."

She shakes her tousled head, silhouetted by the yellow light emanating from the RV's bathroom. "You're kidding me right?" She slides off the dinette seat. Charley's been overflowing with relief since she told me the truth about our life: that she's not really my mother, but my grandmother, that somebody's chasing us for way too good of a reason, that my life isn't as boring as I thought. We're still being chased, but Charley can at least breathe more freely in her home on the road now that I know the truth.

Home in this case happens to be a brand-spanking-new Trailmaster RV, a huge step forward from the ancient Travco we used to have, the ancient Travco with a rainbow Charley spread in bright colors over its nose.

"Where to?" Having set my vintage cat glasses, love 'em, on my nose, I scramble my hair into its signature ponytail: messy, curly, and frightening. I can so picture myself in the Thriller video.

"Marshall, Texas."

"East Texas?"

"I guess."

"It is." I shake my head. Charley. I love her, I really do, but when it comes to geography, despite the fact that we've traveled all over the country going to her gigs ever since I can remember, she's about as intelligent as a bottle of mustard. And boy do I know a lot about bottles of mustard. But that was my last adventure.

"If you knew, then why did you ask?" She flips the left side of her long, blonde hair, straighter than Russell Crowe, over her shoulder. Charley's beautiful. Silvery blonde (she uses a cheap rinse to cover up the gray), thin (she's vegan), and a little airy (she's frightened of a lot and tries not to think about anything else that may scare her), she wears all sorts of embroidered vests and large skirts and painted blue jeans. And they're all the real deal, because Charley's an environmentalist and wouldn't dream of buying something she didn't need when what she's got is wearing perfectly well. She calls my penchant for vintage clothing "recycling," and I don't disagree.

"Is this really a gig, Charley, or are we escaping again?"

She shakes her head. "No phone call. I really do have a job."

I feel the thrill of fear inside me, though there's no need right now. Biker Guy almost got me back on Toledo Island. (Yeah, he looks like a grizzled old biker.) To call the guy rough around the edges would be like saying Pam Anderson has had "a little work done."

I've been looking over my shoulder ever since.

But more on that later. We need to get on the road. And I need to get on with my life. I'm so sick of thinking about how things aren't nearly what I'd like them to be.

I mean, do you ever get tired of hearing yourself complain?

I flip up my laptop, log on to the satellite Internet I installed (yes, I am that geeky) and Google directions to Marshall, Texas, from where we are in Theta, Tennessee—actually, on the farm of one of Charley's old art-school friends who gave her some work in advertising for the summer. Charley's a food stylist, which means she makes food look good for the camera. Still cameras, motion picture cameras, video, it doesn't matter. Charley can do it all.

"Oh, we've got plenty of time, Charley. Five hundred and fifty miles and . . . we have to go through Memphis . . ."

My verbal drop-off is a dead giveaway.

"Oh, no, Scotty, we're not going to Graceland again."

The kitsch that is Graceland speaks to me. What can I say?

And you've got to admit, it's starting to look vintage. Now ten years ago . . .

I cross my arms. "Do you have cooking to do on the way?"

Yes, highly illegal to cook in a rolling camper.

"Yeah, I do."

"And do you expect me, an unlicensed sixteen-year-old, to drive?" Again, highly illegal, but Charley's a free spirit. However, she refuses to copy CDs and DVDs, so in that regard, she's more moral than most people. I guess it evens up in the end.

"Uh-huh."

"Then I think I deserve a trip through the Jungle Room."

She rolls her eyes, reaches down to the floor, and throws me my robe. "Oh, all right. Just don't take too long."

"I'll try. So." I look at the screen. "65 to route 40 west. Let's hit it. And we'll have time to stop for breakfast."

Charley shakes her head and plops down on the tan dinette bench. The interior of this whole RV is a nice sandy tan with botanical accents. Tasteful and so much better than the old Travco that looked like a cross between a genie's bottle and the Unabomber cabin. "You're going to eat cheese. Aren't you?"

"I sure am."

And Charley can't say anything, because months ago she told me this was a decision I could make on my own.

Freedom!

"I've rethought the cheese moratorium, baby. I know you're not going to like this, but three months of cheese is enough. I can't imagine what your arteries look like. I think it's time to stop."

"What?" Cheese is my life. "Charley! You can't do this to me."

"It's for your own good."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah, I am."

"Why?"

"Because summer's over, baby, and we've got to get back to a better way of life."

I could continue to argue, but it won't do any good. Charley acts all hippie and egalitarian, but when push comes to shove, she's the boss. However, I'm great at hiding my cheese . . . and . . . I'm going to convince her eventually.

But still.

"This isn't right, Charley, and you know it. But it's too early to argue. And might I add, you have no idea what it's like to have a teen with real teen issues. You ought to be on your knees thanking God I'm not drinking, smoking, pregnant, or"—I was going to say sneaking out at night, but I've done that, just to get some space—"or writing suicidal poetry on the Internet!"

We stare at each other, then burst into laughter.

"Just humor me this time, baby," she says. "We'll come back to it soon, I promise."

I don't believe her, but I hop into the driver's seat, pull up the brake, throw the TrailMama into drive, and we are off.

Six hours later

I pull through Graceland's gatehouse at ten a.m., park near the back of the compound's cracked, tired parking lot, and change into some crazy seventies striped bell-bottoms, a poet shirt, and Charley's old crocheted, granny-square vest. Normally I go further back in my vintage-wear, but I'm trying to go with the groove that is Graceland.

I kiss Charley's cheek. "I'll be back by noon."

"When will that put us in Marshall?"

"By six thirty."

"Because I'm not sure where the shoot is."

"Please. Marshall's small. Jeremy and company will make a big splash no matter where they set up. Besides, growing up around this, I have a nose for it."

She awards me one of her big smiles. "You're somethin', baby. I forget that sometimes." She puts her arms around me, squeezes, pulls back, then smacks me lightly on my behind. "Tell Elvis I said hello."

"Oh, I will. He's one of the groundskeepers now, you know."

I've seen computer-generated pictures of what he would look like now, in his seventies. Scary.

I jump down from the RV, head across the parking lot, over the small bridge leading into the ticketing complex and walk by Elvis's jets, including the Lisa Marie. Gotta love anything with that name. Don't know why. Just has a nice ring to it.

Banners proclaim, "Elvis Is."

Is what? Dead? A legend? What? Because he isn't "izzing" as far as I'm concerned. Present tense, people! If the person's not alive, "is" can only be followed by a few options: Buried up in the memorial garden. Rotting in his casket. Missed by his family and friends. Not exactly banner copy, mind you.

Still, you've got to admit the name Elvis wreaks of cool. Perhaps the sign should read, "Elvis Is . . . A Really Cool Name."

But it's not nearly as cool as my name. You see, my real mother loved the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. And that's my name: Francis Scott Fitzgerald Dawn. Only Dawn's not my actual last name. I don't know what my real last name is. My real first name is Ariana. Being on the run, Charley renamed us to protect our identity. So she honored my mother by naming me after Mom's favorite novelist. More on that later too.

It sounds fun, traveling on the road from film shoot to film shoot, never settling down in one place for too long, but honestly, it's very sad.

I always knew Charley lived with a sadness down deep, and when I found out why this spring, her sadness became mine. See, my dad is dead and my mother, Charley's daughter Babette, is too. Or we think she must be, because she disappeared under questionable circumstances and never came back. Learn that when you're fifteen and see where you land.

When I thought Charley was my mother, I had such high hopes for who my father might be. Al Pacino was number one in the ranking. Don't ask.

Okay, Elvis, here we go. Let's you and me be "taking care of business."

I hand over my money to the lady behind the reservations counter. I called thirty minutes ago on my cell phone, compliments of my mother's friend Jeremy, and reserved a spot.

"You'll be on the first tour."



Yes! More time amid the shag carpeting and the gold records. And the jumpsuits. Can't forget the jumpsuits. I want a cape too.



The gift shop calls to me. Confession: I love gift shops. They even smell sparkly. Key chains dangling, saying, "You can take me with you wherever you go!" Mugs with the Saint Louis Gateway Arch or the Grand Ole Opry promising an even better cup of coffee. Earrings that advertise you've been somewhere. That's exactly what I choose while I wait for the tour, a little pair of dangly red guitars with the words Elvis Presley in gold script on the bodies, and how in the world they put that on so small is beyond me. See, gift shops can even be miraculous if you take your time and look.



A voice over the loudspeaker announces my tour number, so I stand in line. By myself. Just me in a group of twenty or so.



Okay, here is where it gets hard to be me. I know I should be thankful for my free-spirited life. But especially now that I know my parents are dead, it feels empty all of a sudden. I shouldn't be standing in line at Graceland alone. My mother and I should be giggling behind our hands at the man nearby who's actually grown a glorious pair o' mutton-chop sideburns, slicked back his salt-and-pepper curls, and shrugged his broad shoulders into a leather jacket. Really, right? My father, who was an FBI agent the mob shot right in a warehouse in Baltimore, would shake his head like a dad in a sixties TV show and laugh at his girls.



We'd get on the bus like I'm doing now, each of us putting on our tour headphones and hanging the little blue recorders around our necks in anticipation of the glory that is Elvis.



The driver welcomes us as he shuts the hydraulic doors of the little tour bus with its clean blue upholstery, a bus in which an assisted-living home might haul its residents to the mall.



It smells new in here, and my gross-out antennae aren't vibrating in the least like they do when I go into an old burger joint and the orange melamine booth hasn't been scrubbed since the place opened in 1987.



In my fantasy, my dad would sit beside me. And Mom, just across the aisle, holding onto the seatback in front of her, would look at me as we pass through those famed musical gates, because she would have introduced me to Elvis music. According to Charley, my vintage sentimentalism comes from my mom. I've learned a little about her this summer.



Charley said, "She'd wear my cousin's old poodle skirt and listen to Love Me Tender over and over again while writing in her diary." She became a respected journalist, loved books as much as I do. I pat my book in my backpack, looking forward to tonight when I can cuddle into my loft and get into one of Fitzgerald's glittering worlds. "She was different from me, Scotty. I tried to change the world through protest. Your mother wanted to build something completely different and much better." She sighed. "All my generation could do, I guess, was tear apart. It's going to take our children to put the pieces back together. Babette was a very careful person. Very purposeful."



If it drove my freewheeling grandmother crazy, she doesn't let on.



"I could try to describe how much she loved you, baby. But I don't think I could begin to do her devotion to you justice. I was so proud of her, for how much she loved and gave away. She was amazing."



So in May I found out she existed, the same day I found out she is dead, or most likely dead. And now I'm going into Graceland alone, truly an orphan. Who wants to be an orphan?



We disembark from the bus—me, Elvis Lite, some folks from a Spanish-speaking country, and a lot of older people. I miss Grammie and Grampie right now. More later on them, too. And you'll get to meet them. Like the waters of the Gulf Stream, we seem to travel in the same general direction. I spent a week with them this summer in Tennessee. Yeah, we did Nashville right. They're loaded.



Standing beneath the front porch, my gaze skates up and down the soaring white pillars and comes to rest on the stone lions that guard the steps. My father was a lion. That's why he ended up with a bullet in his chest. Speaking in very broad terms, the story goes as follows:



Dad, undercover, worked his way into a portion of the mob, or mafia if you prefer, that was heavily financing the campaign of a Maryland gubernatorial candidate. When they discovered him, they shot him on site, in a warehouse in the Canton neighborhood of downtown Baltimore. My mother watched, gasped, and a chase ensued. She hid in a friend's gallery, called Charley and told her to keep watching me. (Charley had kept me the night before because my mom and dad had some glamorous function to attend.) And then she disappeared.



The Graceland tour recorder tells me to look to my right into the beautiful white living room with peacock stained-glass windows leading into the music room. This room really isn't so bad, I've got to admit. A picture of Elvis's dad hangs on the wall. He really loved his parents.



I've toured this house at least seven times before, and I'll tell you this, Elvis's love for his family soaked into the walls. A girl that lives in a camper, has dead parents, and is being chased by someone from the mob who knows my grandmother knows what went down, well, she can feel these things.



Charley thinks someone's trying to kill us. This guy is always trying to find us, but Charley's really great at evasion. She said the politician who won the governor's seat all those years ago just announced his candidacy for president and—oh, GREAT!—he's probably trying to make sure nothing comes back to haunt him and sent Biker Guy to finish off the entire matter.



The thing is, he seems to be after me too. And what in the world would I have to do with all of that?



I'll bet Charley's back in that camper shaking in her shoes because I'm over here by myself; I'll bet she's figuring out more ways to be utterly and overly protective of me. I wouldn't be surprised if she's wondering whether locking a kid in an RV is child abuse.



But I love Charley. I really do. I know she's scared back there, and despite the fact that I would be no real help if Biker Guy caught us, I can't leave her there so frightened and alone for long.



Elvis dear, I can only stay a little while. So love me tender, love me sweet, and for the sake of all that's decent, don't step on my blue suede shoes.



I hurry past the bedroom of Elvis's parents, decorated in shades of ivory and purple, very nice, and through the dining room—a little seventies tackiness I'll admit—into the kitchen with dark brown cabinetry and the ghosts of a million grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches, then on down into the basement. Okay, I admit, I've got to just stand for a second in the TV room and admire the man's ability to watch three TVs at once on that huge yellow couch with the sparkly pillows.



I shoot through the billiard room, which is, honestly, truly beautiful with its fabric-lined walls and ceiling, up the back steps and into the Jungle Room, probably Graceland's most famous room. Green shag carpet overlays the floor and the ceiling, and heavily carved, Polynesian-style furniture is arranged around a rock-wall waterfall at the end of the room. It really defies the imagination, folks. Google Jungle Room Graceland and see what I mean.



The second floor of Graceland is closed off to the public because Elvis died up there. On the toilet. Wise decision on the part of Priscilla I'd say.



Out the door, into the office building, down to the trophy hall, I whiz through all the gold and platinum records, the costumes, the awards, and even a wall full of checks he'd written for charity. According to my recorder, Elvis was an active community member in Memphis. And he obviously didn't care what race or religion people were. He supported Jewish organizations, Catholic, Baptist. Pretty cool.



Of course, this recorder isn't going to tell of the dark side of the man. But Elvis Isn't, despite what the banners say. So why drag a dead man through the mud?



I hurry through the racquetball court, more gold records, the infamous jumpsuits, back outside to the pool and memorial garden where Elvis has been laid to rest.



An older lady cries into a handkerchief. I don't ask why.



Good-bye Elvis. Thanks for the tour. Maybe one day I'll do something great too.



A few minutes later . . .

Cranenergy Blog Tour

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