Sunday, November 30, 2008

FIRST: Leave it to Chance - Sherri Sand



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






The feature author is:



and his/her book:


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



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

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

Product Details:

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


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That would be yes and a no.”

“What? Mom!” he complained.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He scowled at her again. “Whatever.”

Sierra held his gaze until he glanced away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can we keep the horse?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Braden rolled his eyes at her.

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

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

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

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

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

He leaned back. “Do I get a horse?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A horse.”

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

“A herd of them or just one?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Angora rabbits?”

“No farm animals.”

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

“A hamster is a pet. A horse is not.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was bound to happen, hon.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Michael still hasn’t paid?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“First?”

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

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



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

“What, Mom?”

“I just wanted to say good night.”

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

“I looked at your homework.”

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

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

He ignored her and started playing his Game Boy.

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

“Hey!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Middle school’s harder.”

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

“Why?”

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

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

“You lied to me, son. Again.”

“Sor-ry.”

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

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

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

“I dunno. Can I have my game back?”

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

But would tomorrow be any different?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Grace Blast

Today I received a Grace Blast from Claudia Mair Burney, just a few words to lift my spirit. Sometimes we need a few words to help us along the way. - Thank you Claudia.

Today I want to talk about a few other Grace Blasts I’ve received this year.

Linda Beed – I’m going to call her my spiritual writing mentor. I’ve known her a few years online, but we finally met this year at Slam. She’s me when I grow up. LOL
I don’t think she knows how much her weekly phone calls meant to me this year. We shared ideas about writing and SORMAG. She kicked me off the fence a many of times. Her group held writing a contest and I was one of the winners. Talking about smiling for a week.

Marilynn Griffith – She has become one of my favorite authors. I know when I pick up one her books she’s going to inspire me and lift up my spirits. Her emails always come when I need them. She understands this writing journey because she’s been there and done that. I just want her to know that I appreciate her and her words of encouragement.

Patricia Woodside and Ty Moody – Two writers who are on this path with me. We hold each other up and we share our wealth of knowledge. You two have pushed me when I didn’t want to be pushed. Your posts on your blogs encourage me to keep on and I know one day I will be introducing the world to your books. I can’t wait.

Rhonda McKnight – I’m so excited to know your writing career is taking off. I look forward to reading your books. Thank you for your critiques, I so needed them, and this year they help me improve my manuscript. I look forward to introducing you to my SORMAG readers.

There are many more spirits who have blessed me this year, just wanted to send out a thank you to these wonderful people. I’m so thankful for having you in my life.

Thank you Linda, Marilynn, Patricia, Ty and Rhonda for being my friend.

Monday, November 24, 2008

CFBA: Beloved Captive - Kathleen Y’Barbo


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Beloved Captive

Barbour Publishing, Inc (November 1, 2008)

by

Kathleen Y’Barbo



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

There’s never a dull moment in the Y’Barbo household! From hockey and cheer mom to publicist to bestselling author, Kathleen Y’Barbo somehow manages to do it all - and well. While wearing her publicist’s hat, Kathleen has secured interviews with radio, television, and print media for clients at NavPress, Hatchette, Integrity, Barbour Publishing, and Broadman & Holman, to name a few. She also brings her own unique blend of Southern charm and witty prose to the more than 350,000 award-winning novels and novellas currently in print. Her novels have been nominated for American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006; and 2007 will see the release of her 25th book.

Kathleen is a tenth-generation Texan and a mother of three grown sons and a teenage daughter. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University. Kathleen is a former treasurer for the American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a member of the Author’s Guild, Inspirational Writers Alive, Words for the Journey Christian Writers Guild, and the Fellowship of Christian Authors. In addition, she is a sought-after speaker, and her kids think she’s a pretty cool mom, too…most of the time, anyway.

The first book in this series is Beloved Castaway.


ABOUT THE BOOK

In this sequel to Beloved Castaway, Emilie Gayarre is learning to accept her mixed race heritage while finding fulfillment in teaching children of the key. There is no denying the attraction between Emilie and the handsome young naval commander, Caleb Spencer, who is shadowed by his own flock of secrets. But if her heritage is found out, even greater things than his career are at risk. Enjoy this historical romance full of risk and redemption.

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

FIRST: Ted Dekker - Infidel--Graphic Novel: The Lost Books Series



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




and his book:



Thomas Nelson (November 11, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


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

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

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

Here are some of his latest titles:

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

Adam

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

Saint


Product Details

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


AND NOW...THE FIRST TWO PAGES:

(Click Pictures to Zoom!)



Thursday, November 20, 2008

In Memory Of


Ms. Lillie Esther Dickens
Feb. 18, 1936 - Nov. 12, 2008


Esther was my mother's first cousin. They were good friends growing up. My mother hasn't said much, but I know losing a family member is hard for her. All her older relatives are deceased and now she's lossed a dear cousin.

My deepest sympathy goes out to Esther's family, and friends. We will miss her laughter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CFBA: The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips - Stephen Baldwin & Mark Tabb


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips

FaithWords (November 5, 2008)

by

Stephen Baldwin
&
Mark Tabb


ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

STEPHEN BALDWIN - actor, family man, born-again Christian - makes his home in upstate New York with his wife and two young daughters.

Equally adept at drama and comedy, Baldwin has appeared in over 60 films and been featured on such top-rated television shows as Fear Factor and Celebrity Mole. He has his own production company that is developing projects for television and the big screen. These days, however, his role as director, co-producer and host of Livin' It - a cutting-edge skate video is bringing out his white hot passion for evangelism.

Writer and communicator Mark Tabb calls himself an “internationally unknown author.” Although his books have been published around the world, he is best known for his collaborative works. His 2008 release, “Mistaken Identity”, written with the Van Ryn and Cerak families, hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list for two weeks, and remained on the list for over two months. He and actor Stephen Baldwin teamed up on their 2005 New York Times bestseller, “The Unusual Suspect,” and with their first work of fiction, “The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips,”


ABOUT THE BOOK

Even years of experience haven't prepared Officer Andy Myers for this case---

When Officer Andy Myers met Loraine Phillips, he had no interest in her son. And he certainly never dreamed he'd respond to a call, finding that same boy in a pool of blood. Even more alarming was the father standing watch over his son's body. Myers had never seen a man respond to death-particularly the death of a child-in such a way. When the father is charged with murder and sentenced to death, he chooses not to fight but embrace it as God's will. Myers becomes consumed with curiosity for these strange beliefs. What follows is the story of the bond these two men share as they come to terms with the tragedy and the difficult choices each one must make.


If you would like to read the first chapter of The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips, go HERE

*STRONG LANGUAGE*

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MVP - Albert Pujos



My second husband was selected MVP. GO ALBERT!

Monday, November 17, 2008

CFBA: White Christmas Pie - Wanda E. Brunstetter


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

White Christmas Pie

Barbour Publishing, Inc (September 1, 2008)

by

Wanda E. Brunstetter



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Fascinated by the Amish people during the years of visiting her husband's family in Pennsylvania, WANDA E. BRUNSTETTER combined her interest with her writing and now has eleven novels about the Amish in print, along with numerous other stories and ministry booklets. She lives in Washington State, where her husband is a pastor, but takes every opportunity to visit Amish settlements throughout the states.

This year Wanda also publishedA Sister's Hope


ABOUT THE BOOK

Step into Amish country for this bittersweet holiday romance. Here you'll meet Will Henderson, a young man tortured by his past, and Karen Yoder, a young woman looking for answers. Add a desperate father searching for his son, and you have all the ingredients for a first-class romance that will inspire and enthrall.

Abandoned by his father, Will Henderson was raised by an Amish couple. Now he's about to marry Karen Yoder but is having second thoughts. Can Will overcome the bitterness of his past in order to secure his future? Karen cannot break through the barrier her fiance has suddenly constructed around his heart. When she seeks the advice of an old boyfriend, Will begins to see green. Has he already lost his chance for happiness?

When an accident threatens Will's life, the strength of blood ties is tested. Will a recipe for White Christmas pie contain the ingredients for a happily-ever-after?

If you would like to read the first chapter of White Christmas Pie, go HERE

Watch the book trailer:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Going Gray

The first gray hair popped up and I wasn’t really fazed, then one morning I woke up with a patch. Where did that come from? My mother says my aunt had premature gray. In her twenties she was all gray.

I wasn’t read to accept it, so I had my stylist to give me a rinse. I love the shiny black hair, but my gray wasn’t having it. A week later it was peeking back at me.

Two weeks ago I took a major plunge and cut off all the perm ends of my hair and went natural. My sister cut it into a short afro. When I looked in the mirror my whole head was gray. What happen to the patch?

My mother says gray hair means wisdom. I know I still have a lot to learn, so I don’t see the wisdom lol. I see a little old lady who is can’t rinse her hair because the last time I rinsed it, it turned green.

Green or Gray that is the question.

For now I’m doing the gray, I’ve decided to love me for me and deal with what God is sending me. Maybe he sees something I don’t.

I love the natural hair. I haven’t had my hair since I was 14 when I went to the curl. I learn something new about my hair everyday.

Are you natural?

Please give me some tips on how you maintain your hair.

How do you deal with the gray?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

CFBA: One Holy Night - J. M. Hochstetler


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Holy Night

Sheaf House (April 1, 2008)

by




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


J. M. Hochstetler writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published three novels.

One Holy Night, a contemporary miracle story for all seasons, released in April 2008. Daughter of Liberty (2004) and Native Son (2005), books 1 and 2 of the American Patriot Series are set during the American Revolution. Book 3, Wind of the Spirit, is scheduled for release in March 2009. Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, and Historical Novels Society.



ABOUT THE BOOK

In 1967 the military build-up in Viet Nam is undergoing a dramatic surge. The resulting explosion of anti-war sentiment tears the country apart, slicing through generations and shattering families. In the quiet bedroom community of Shepherdsville, Minnesota, the war comes home to Frank and Maggie McRae, whose only son, Mike, is serving as a grunt in Viet Nam.

Frank despises all Asians because of what he witnessed as a young soldier fighting the Japanese in the south Pacific during WWII. The news that his son has fallen in love with and married Thi Nhuong, a young Vietnamese woman, shocks him. To Frank all Asians are enemies of his country, his family, and himself. A Buddhist, Thi Nhuong represents everything he despises. So he cuts Mike out of his life despite the pleas of his wife, Maggie; daughter, Julie; and Julie s husband, Dan, the pastor of a growing congregation.

Maggie is fighting her own battle--against cancer. Convinced that God is going to heal her, Frank plays the part of a model Christian. Her death on Thanksgiving Day devastates him. Worse, as they arrive home from the gravesite, the family receives news of Mike s death in battle. Embittered, Frank stops attending church and cuts off family and friends.

By the time a very pregnant Thi Nhuong arrives on his doorstep on a stormy Christmas Eve, Frank is so filled with hate that he slams the door in her face, shutting her out in the bitter cold. Finally, overcome by guilt, he tries to go after her, but driving wind and snow force him back inside. With the storm rising to blizzard strength, he confronts the wrenching truth that what hate has driven him to do is as evil as what the Japanese did all those years earlier, and that he needs forgiveness as desperately as they did ...

Frank doesn't know that what God has in mind this night is a miracle. As on that holy night so many years ago, a baby will be born and laid in a manger--a baby who will bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Holy Night, go HERE.

Monday, November 10, 2008

CFBA: Until We Reach Home - Lynn Austin


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Until We Reach Home

Bethany House (October 1, 2008)

by

Lynn Austin



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. She has published twelve novels. Three of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, and Fire by Night have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, and 2004 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005.

Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.

Among her lastest books are A Proper Pursuit and A Woman's Place


ABOUT THE BOOK

Life in Sweden seems like an endless winter for three sisters after their mother's and father's suicide. Ellin feels the weight of responsibility for her sisters' welfare and when it circumstances become unbearable, she writes to her relatives in Chicago, pleading for help.

Joining sixteen million other immigrants who left their homelands for America between 1890 and 1920, Ellin, Kirsten, and Sophia begin the long, difficult journey. Enduring the ocean voyage in steerage and detention on Ellis Island, their story is America's story. And in a journey fraught with hardships, each woman will come to understand her secret longings and the meaning of home.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Until We Reach Home, go HERE

Friday, November 07, 2008

Me Myself & I AM - Matthew Peters - Elisa Stanford


Me Myself & I AM

Author: Created by Matthew Peters in partnership with Elisa Stanford

A new experience of God comes one question at a time in this fun and provocative journal. Made up entirely of insightful, profound, and occasionally ridiculous questions, Me, Myself, and I AM invites you to open to any page, open yourself to God, and be the author of yourown story.

Questions range from spiritually intriguing—

You overhear God talking about you. What do hear him saying?

to thought-provoking—

You are on a long car trip with a close friend who is not a Christian and the conversation turns to faith. What is your biggest fear about what your friend will ask or say?

to challenging—

Do you believe that all of Jesus’s followers have a responsibility to tell others about him?

to just plain fun—

If your life before you became a Christian were a movie, its title would be:

Animal House

As Good as It Gets

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s a Wonderful Life

Me, Myself, and I AM will entertain, inspire, and get you thinking about your spiritual life from brand new angles. Whether you use Me, Myself, and I AM as a reflective tool, a way to start conversations with friends and family, or as a spiritual time capsule to look back on years later, their own words will create a powerful journey of self-discovery.

LASHAUNDA's REVIEW:

I think this book would be a perfect for gift for every Christian. Its a journal of your thoughts but instead of you writing off the top of your head, you're answering questions that take you closer to God.

FIRST: The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips - Stephen Baldwin



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

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





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips

FaithWords (November 5, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHORs:




Stephen Baldwin, actor, family man, born-again Christian. Through an impressive body of work, Stephen continues to be a popular and sought-after talent in the film and television industry. Stephen makes his home in upstate New York with his wife and two young daughters.

Mark Tabb is the author of twelve books including Living with Less and Out of the Whirlwind. He and his wife, Valerie, live in Knightstown, Indiana with their three daughters.


Visit Stephen's website and Mark's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (November 5, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446196991
ISBN-13: 978-0446196994

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


ANDY MYERS DIDN’T want children. That was one of his conditions when he married my mom. No kids. Period. Case closed. You would think someone so adamant about not reproducing would have gone out and had a vasectomy, but Andy didn’t think that way. He didn’t want kids; keeping that from happening was my mother’s responsibility. When she failed, he immediately made an appointment for her at an abortion clinic in Indianapolis. He didn’t ask. He just assumed she would terminate my life before my feet ever hit the ground. She refused. He walked out. And I didn’t hear from him until I was thirteen. I think he sent money to my mother every month, at least while he was able. I’m pretty sure he did. The courts probably made him, and a cop like my dad wouldn’t risk going to jail, at least not over something as insignificant as money.

I guess that explains why I always hated my old man. Despising him was imprinted on my DNA just as surely as my dark brown hair and blue eyes. The girls always loved my blue eyes. More than one lost her moral resolve when I put those baby blues to work. I got my eyes from Andy. I think they may have been part of the hook he used on my mom. I’m not sure. My mom never talked about him that way. For that matter, she hardly talked about anything that happened before she and I moved to St. Louis from her hometown in Indiana when I was really little. I didn’t even know I had my dad’s eyes until I looked into them for the fi rst time ten years ago. There was no mistaking the eyes, even with that thick sheet of glass between us.

I think of that hatred in a different way, now that I am on the other side of the equation, with a son of my own. And I think about Andy Myers a little different as well. You know, life is funny. If my life had gone the way it was supposed to, I wouldn’t be sitting here with you right now. I would be somewhere, assuming I survived as long as I have, but I wouldn’t be sitting on the beach of Lake Michigan, watching my wife and son play in the water and talking to you. When I stand back and look at my family in this place, we look like the happy ending of one of those Hallmark Hall of Fame movies my wife loves to cry through. My life shouldn’t have turned out this way, not that I’m complaining. But it strikes me as sort of hilarious to think that if my father hadn’t walked out on me, none of this would have happened. I hated him for what he did. Who would have ever thought it would have led to this?

It all goes back to when I was about the same age as my little boy. Back then my dad worked as a cop in Trask, Indiana. Believe it or not, my wife and I live there now. We moved there a few years ago, but that’s another story in itself. As for my dad, everyone in town knew him when he lived there.

That doesn’t mean they liked him, but they knew him. He grew up just outside of town, and made a name for himself as the star athlete in the local high school. In a school as small as Trask High, it doesn’t take a lot of talent to stand out from the pack. After high school, my old man got it in his head that a career in sports was in his future. He tried walking onto the Ball State football team, but didn’t make it past the first few days of practice. After Ball State, he tried a few of the local small colleges, without success. Eventually he quit college altogether and joined the navy before the army could draft him. Vietnam was still going on, so my old man figured spending a couple of years on a boat beat getting shot at in a jungle. My dad wasn’t a violent man, but he never lost that star athlete swagger he carried around the high school campus.

I’m not sure why he moved back to his hometown after the navy. I guess there are worse places to live. He met my mother soon after, but that didn’t turn out so well. Around the time the two of them got married, he joined the local police force. No one ever told me why my dad became a cop. I don’t know if a career in law enforcement was his lifelong goal, or if he just sort of fell into it. At this point, I guess it doesn’t matter. All these years later I occasionally hear stories about him, but I think that has more to do with the way his career ended than anything else. No one ever signed off from police work quite like my old man.

I came along less than two years after my parents got married. By then my mother was a single mom. My dad walked out on her when he found out she was pregnant. Now I could understand him leaving if she’d been out whoring around, but my mother wasn’t like that. No, my dad walked out because my mother made the mistake of giving birth to his child. Like I said, Andy Myers didn’t want children, and my arrival did nothing to change his mind. He was gone by the time I was born, and my mom moved the two of us to St. Louis not long after.

Like I said, when I was about the same age as my son, Andy Myers (and if it is all the same to you, I would prefer calling him by his given name. I’ve already called him “dad” more in the last few minutes than I have in my entire life) worked as a cop in our beloved metropolis of Trask. I don’t know if living alone was making him have second thoughts, but he started seeing another woman. He’d been with other women before Loraine Phillips, if you know what I mean, but those relationships were all very short- lived. Loraine was different. His time with her could actually be measured in months, not hours. The way he tells it, they weren’t so much dating as using one another to cure one another’s loneliness. That sounds like a load of bull to me, but, hey, it’s his life. He can tell himself whatever lies he wants. The two of them met in a bar, and they ended up in bed back at his apartment the same night. Again, that wasn’t exactly a remarkable event for Andy Myers. He thought of himself as six feet one inch, 205 pounds of sex appeal. And he had those killer blue eyes. Throw the whole package together, and look out. At least that’s what he says. He seems to think he was really something back in the day. But I don’t think getting Loraine into bed had as much to do with my old man’s charms as it did with her sexual appetite.

After that first encounter, he tried to play the gentleman and begin a real dating relationship with her. But the first time he went by her place to pick her up, she met him at the door wearing nothing but a twelve- pack of Bud and a seethrough gown from Frederick’s of Hollywood and started clawing at his clothes. I’m thirty- two, and it still creeps me out to think my own father told me this stuff, but he did. I guess he needed to. My story doesn’t really make sense without it.

That night pretty much set the tone for the rest of their relationship. They never went out on actual dates. For that matter, they never really had an in- depth conversation, either live or over the phone. They would go as long as two or three weeks without talking, but then she would call and ask my dad if he had time to drop by. He knew what that meant. And he never said no. At times he felt a little guilty about the whole thing, but the sex was good and Loraine never seemed to want much more than a purely physical relationship. Besides, with a body like hers, few men would have complained. Andy’s friends thought he’d fallen into every man’s fantasy: a hot woman, wild sex, and no strings attached. What could be better? He knew the answer even then, although he couldn’t admit it to himself.

Andy didn’t know Loraine had a kid until he’d been with her for several months. The boy was never around when Loraine called, and she kept any signs of him out of view when Andy came by. Her system worked pretty well until the kid walked into the kitchen one Saturday morning. Andy was sitting there, eating a bowl of cereal in his underwear, when the boy came up, stuck out his hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Gabriel. Gabriel Phillips. What’s your name?” Finding a strange man sitting in his underwear in my kitchen when

I was Gabe’s age would have sent me running down the hall screaming for my mother, but the sight of Andy didn’t seem to faze Gabe. He sounded like he was running for mayor at eight years of age. I bet my old man nearly crapped his pants at the sight of him. Then the kid said, “You like Cap’n Crunch, too? It’s my favorite, but my mom hardly ever buys it. Says too much sugar is bad for me. But it sure does taste good.” Andy fumbled over his words and said, “Yeah, they’re real good,” or something like that. He always was a great conversationalist.

I don’t know which is weirder: the fact that Gabe wasn’t scared by a strange man in his kitchen, or that Andy wasn’t scared off by discovering the woman he was seeing had a kid. Neither one makes much sense to me. I guess I should be jealous of Gabriel Phillips since he was the only exception to the “no kids allowed” rule my dad ever made. I should, but I’m not. Not anymore. Andy told me there was a quirky, awkward charm about Gabe that drew people to him. He was a little guy, really small for his age, which he came by naturally—the kid’s dad wasn’t exactly Shaquille O’Neal. Once you got to know Gabe he didn’t seem so small; he almost seemed like an adult. Keep in mind, I got all of my information secondhand several years later, and time has a way of glossing over any faults and amplifying people’s good qualities. Be that as it may, Gabriel Phillips, I am told, genuinely cared about people, especially people others overlooked. People were just drawn to him. Maybe it was something supernatural. I’m not sure. But it sure cast a spell over my old man. Meeting Gabe didn’t make Andy run away. If anything, it made him more of a “boyfriend” than he’d ever been before. He started going by Loraine’s house on a more regular basis.

And not just for sex. He tried taking both mother and son out on something like dates. When Loraine feigned headaches, Andy still took Gabe. They went to ball games, or to the local hamburger stand, or wherever. Andy often said, “I’d never met another child quite like him.” And the first time he said it to me, I walked out on him. The last time they were together, Andy drove Gabe down to Cincinnati for a Reds game. Loraine was supposed to go, too, but she didn’t. I doubt if she ever said why. Maybe she didn’t want to be stuck in a car with the two of them for two hours each way. Or maybe, like me, she thought it a little strange that my dad took such an interest in the kid. Andy wasn’t trying to replace the boy’s father. Gabe already had one of those. I like to think maybe Andy saw in Gabe a little of what he could have had with me, but that’s more wishful thinking than anything else. And wishful thinking only makes things worse, not better.

About a week after the Reds game, Andy was fighting to stay awake while working the graveyard shift. The Trask police force was always woefully understaffed, then and now, which meant Andy had to pull all- nighters at least one week out of the month. On this particular night he couldn’t shake the cobwebs out of his head. It wasn’t just because of the late hour. He’d been over at Loraine’s house right before reporting for duty, and was still in the fog that sleep usually takes care of after such activity. He was so out of it that the police dispatcher didn’t get a response from him until she radioed a second time. “Trask 52- 2,” the dispatcher said, “we have a 10- 16 at 873 East Madison, apartment 323. That’s a report of a domestic disturbance at eight- seven- three East Madison, number three- two- three.” He switched on the car dome light and fumbled for a pen and paper to write down the apartment number. They didn’t have fancy in- car computers back then.

Andy suppressed a yawn, picked up his mic, and radioed back, “ 10- 4, dispatch. Trask 52- 2 is 10- 8.” 10- 8 means “in service.”

“10- 4, 52- 2 at two- oh- six. By the way, Andy, we’ve had three calls from the same location. You want me to get the sheriff’s department headed that way to back you up?” “Naaaahhhh,” Andy yawned and said. “Let me check it out first. Probably nothing. No sense dragging anyone else out at this godforsaken hour if we don’t have to.” The mic hung in his hand as he stared at the apartment address he’d written down. He cursed under his breath, then said to no one, “Good old Madison Park Apartments. What would an overnight shift be without at least one call from there?” He let out another yawn, arched his back in an attempt to stretch the fatigue out of his body, then started his patrol car. Andy and every other Trask police officer could make the drive to the Madison Park Apartments from anywhere in town in their sleep. Late- night calls came from there at least once or twice a week. The walls were so thin that when someone coughed in one apartment, the people next door shouted, “Shut the hell up.” Most of the emergencies turned out to be nothing more than blaring televisions or couples arguing a little louder than they should. Andy figured this call would be more of the same.

A handful of people milled around under the only working streetlight in the complex parking lot when Andy pulled in. A woman wearing an oversized T- shirt came running over as soon as he stepped out of his car. Immediately she started chewing on his ear. “What took you so long?! I called half an hour ago.” Andy recognized the woman everyone in town called “Crazy Cathy,” although she didn’t recognize him. At least not right off. About a month earlier he’d arrested her for public intoxication. One day around noon she’d gone for a walk down Main Street, bombed out of her mind, screaming obscenities at the lunchtime crowd going into the diner. She was notorious for that kind of stunt, which is why everyone called her Crazy Cathy, although Cathy wasn’t her real name. Even when she wasn’t drunk, she would walk around town, acting all nuts. All the kids in town thought she was hilarious, especially when she’d been drinking. They would yell things at her to try to get her riled up. She died a few years before I moved to town. The way I hear it, she wandered out into the street while drunk and was hit by a truck. That’s not much of a way to die, even for Crazy Cathy. But she was cold sober the night she got my old man out in the middle of the night. At least she appeared to be. She kept yelling at Andy, “I know no one gives a damn about what happens out here. You think we’re all just a pain in the ass.” Her call to the police couldn’t have been much more than ten minutes earlier, but time slows to a crawl when you are waiting for a cop to show up. Andy didn’t try to defend himself. He just kept walking across the parking lot, growing more coherent with each step. There’s something about the gravelly sound of a chain- smoking woman’s voice that yanks you back to reality. “I’m sorry, ma’am. It’s been one of those nights” was all he could say. “Like hell it has,” she yelled back. “You think your night’s been bad? You should have to listen to that kid carry on. He was screaming so loud it sounded like he was right there in my apartment with me. Sounded like something out of that damned Exorcist movie. Kid couldn’t have screamed any louder even if his head had been spinning around. Made my skin crawl. And it wasn’t the first time I heard that damn kid yelling. It gets worse every time he’s here. I called you people about him before. Called last week. But nobody did nothing.”

She didn’t stop yelling until Andy got to the stairway leading up the outside of building three. He did his best to ignore her. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you’re going to have to stay down here,” he said to her as he reached the stairs. “Don’t get too far away because I will need a full statement from you as soon as I check everything out.”

Andy went about the business at hand. He went up the stairs of building three in search of apartment 323. Another neighbor waited for him at the top of the stairs. “Oh, Officer, I’m glad you’re here,” the woman said. To Andy, she looked like she may have been maybe twenty. As it turns out, she was a twenty- four- year- old single mother. Seems like half the population at Madison Park has always been made up of single moms. “My son came running into my room scared and crying, which is why I called,” she continued. “I started to go over and knock on the door myself, but I was a little nervous about doing it. I’ve met the guy a few times. Our boys play together when his son stays with him, but I don’t know him well enough to knock on his door in the middle of the night, especially after what my son heard.” “That’s probably wise, ma’am,” Andy said. He felt a little funny about calling someone “ma’am” who looked like she had just graduated from high school. “You said your son heard something that shook him up?”

“Yes, sir. My son, he’s eight. He came running into my room. He was shaking, he was so scared.” “I’ll check it out. You should go back to your apartment, miss. I’m sure everything is fine. There’s probably nothing here for your son to be afraid of, but if there is, I will take care of it. Which apartment are you in, just in case I need to get a statement from you?”

“I’m right next door in 325.”

With that, the woman went back into her apartment. Andy heard the dead bolt turn and the slide of the chain into the extra lock. “These people sure are jittery,” Andy said with a sigh. He’d never seen so many people get so shook up over a blaring television. Calls like this at this hour always turned out to be someone asleep in front of a blaring television stuck on the late, late show. Even before twenty-four hour cable networks, local stations broadcast late into the night, usually filling the dead air with old movies. Andy walked over to apartment 323 and listened at the door. He didn’t hear anything. No yelling. No banging. Nothing. He looked at his watch: 2:17 a.m. All the local stations would have switched from movies to test patterns by now. No wonder it was quiet. “Police department,” he called out as he knocked on the door. No response. He could see a light shining through the peephole. He knocked again, with more authority this time, and called out even louder to wake up the sleeper in front of the television, “Police. I need you to open the door, please.” As he waited for a response, he heard the muffled sound of a man’s voice on the other side.

Andy reached up to bang on the door again, when it opened. A man in his mid- thirties motioned him inside as he continued talking on the phone. “Yes. Yes,” the man said, “thank you, Father.” The man turned his back and continued talking on the phone as though no one else was in the room. Andy took a quick glance around. A brown couch with oversized cushions, along with a ratty recliner, were the only furniture in the room. Andy also noticed the living room didn’t have a television. He looked closely at the man on the phone. He was wearing a faded polo- type shirt and a pair of Levi 501’s, but no shoes or socks. He was walking around barefoot on the linoleum tile of his apartment. “Sir,” Andy said, “I need you to get off the phone.” “Amen. Thanks, Eli. Hey, I gotta go. The police are here now. Thanks for praying. Keep it up.” The man spun around to untangle himself from the extra long cord, then hung up the phone. “I’m sorry, Officer. I was just about to call. You were next on my list. He’s back here.” The man turned down the narrow hall toward the smaller of the two bedrooms. “It happened so fast,” he said with a matter- of- fact tone, “there just wasn’t any time. I ran in there as fast as I could, but by the time I got to him, it was already too late. I just had time to tell him good- bye and then he was gone.”

Andy felt like he’d walked into the middle of a conversation. The guy’s words didn’t make any sense and his demeanor just didn’t seem right. At least that’s how Andy remembered it when he told me about that night. He had trouble reading the guy, which set Andy’s nerves on edge. As a policeman, he prided himself on his ability to figure people out in an instant. I never thought he was as good at it as he did. “He’s in here,” the man said as he motioned into a small bedroom. Andy thought it odd that the man wouldn’t move past the doorway.

When Andy looked into the room, the entire floor appeared to be painted red. The room was pretty small, maybe seven feet by nine feet, and most of that was filled with furniture and toys, which made the scene look bloodier than it really was. The remains of a shattered goldfish bowl lay near the dresser, the bottom drawer of which stood open. A small boy, maybe eight years of age, was on the bottom bunk. His skin had a bluish gray tint to it. Even before he got to him, Andy knew the boy was dead. Blood soaked the pillow under the child’s head, with a smear running along the side of the mattress up from the floor. Andy’s feet slipped as he hurried across the room, his adrenaline kicking into high gear. Instinctively, he knelt down beside the child and felt for a pulse in his neck. Nothing. Then he laid his head on the boy’s chest and listened for sounds of breath, but didn’t hear a thing. “How long has he been out?” Andy shouted toward the boy’s father.

“Ten . . . maybe fifteen minutes. I . . . I’m not sure,” the man replied. “I don’t know how to do mouth- to- mouth, but I didn’t think it would do any good. I knew he was gone right after I got to him.” The man’s voice cracked just a little as he spoke. He swallowed hard and said, “I just knew he had already gone home.”

Andy shook his head and muttered something under his breath that questioned the man’s emotional stability. He reached under the boy’s body to lift him off the bed and start CPR. As he raised him up, the boy’s limbs hung limp and lifeless. Most of the bleeding had stopped, although a few drips fell from the back of the boy’s head. The pillow was soaked crimson and the boy’s hair and shirt were wet.

“My God,” Andy said as he looked for a place to lay the boy

on the floor. About the only time my old man ever mentioned God or Jesus was when he was really upset. Even then, they were nothing but words, not divine beings. “Holy, holy Christ,” he said as he laid the boy on the floor and squared himself around to try to revive him. He reached under the boy’s neck to raise his head up for the three quick breaths he had only performed on Resusci Anne, the CPR dummy, up until that day.

Only then did Andy take a close look at the boy. He looked him right in the face and it hit him. “Wait a minute. No . . . Gabe?” he said. Suddenly adrenaline gave way to nausea. A lump of bile hit him in the back of the throat as Andy fought to keep his composure. “Gabe?” he repeated. “You knew my son?” Gabe’s father asked. “How?” Andy kept staring into the boy’s face. “I’m a friend of his mother,” he replied but didn’t elaborate. “How did . . .” Andy cleared his throat and tried to speak again. I guess in all the excitement he forgot about trying CPR, not that it would have done any good. The kid’s lips had already turned blue and his body was slightly cool to the touch. “How did this happen?”

“I— I . . . I’m not exactly sure,” the boy’s father replied. “It all happened so fast. My boy had night terrors, and he would wake up screaming all the time. I guess you sort of get used to things like that after a while. They got even worse after his mother and I split up a while ago. I heard him screaming, but I thought I was the one having the bad dream. I woke up just in time to hear him fall. I ran in here, but I couldn’t do anything. I tried. Really, I tried, but I could feel his life slipping out of him, felt his spirit leaving. All I could do was kiss him good- bye and promise I would see him soon. Then he went home.” The boy’s father paused, then said, “Do you know what my son’s name means, Officer?” That last question really got to my pop. He didn’t know what the meaning of a kid’s name had to do with anything, especially with the man’s kid lying dead on a cold, bloody linoleum floor. My old man also found the dad’s lack of emotion rather odd. This was far from the first time Andy had dealt with a family member after a death, but this was the first time he’d seen a parent show so few signs of grief. A couple of years earlier he’d had to break the news to a couple closing in on retirement age that their thirty- seven- year- old son had died in a car crash. A doctor had to come to the house to sedate them both. But this guy was calmer than a televangelist during a tax audit. Maybe he was in shock. Everyone responds to death in different ways, that’s what I think. My old man, he wasn’t so sure.

“God is my strength,” the father went on. “Gabriel means ‘God is my strength.’ His mother wanted to name him Keith, after Keith Moon, the drummer from the Who. She’s a big fan of the Who. The name just didn’t seem to fit. I took one look at him and knew I had to name him Gabriel. It took me a few years, but I finally figured out why. God had talked to me through my son, Officer. Didn’t know it at the time. God was telling me to make Him my strength. Right now I don’t know what I would do if I hadn’t listened.” Andy made a mental note of how the father seemed to keep his distance from the boy. He never moved from the doorway as he spoke, while Andy stayed on his knees next to the body, his pants legs soaking up the liquid on the floor.

As Andy looked down, Gabe seemed much younger to him than eight— younger and smaller. The boy’s mother had once said something about how the other kids picked on him because of his size. Now he seemed smaller still. Andy knew the boy was dead, but he felt a strong urge to reach out and protect him. He grabbed his radio with his left hand, the hand that was covered with blood from the back of the boy’s neck. “Trask dispatch, 52-2. I have a 10-100. Request you get the coroner and Harris County started out here right away.” 10-100 means a “dead body.”

“ 10-4, 52-2,” the radio crackled back. “Are you sure you want to make the call on the body, Andy? I can have a paramedic and ambulance to you in no time.”

Andy paused for a moment. I don’t know what he hoped to accomplish, but he told the dispatcher, “Okay. Do that. I guess it couldn’t hurt.” Maybe he wanted the kid to still have a chance. More than likely, he just didn’t want to be haunted by the “ what- if” questions that follow emergency responders even when they do everything they possibly can. “What- ifs” are about as useful as wishful thinking, but they can sure be hard to shake in the middle of the night. Andy reached over and lightly stroked the boy’s head with his right hand, then stood to his feet. I think it was his way of telling Gabe goodbye. Once the paramedics and sheriff’s deputies showed up, he wouldn’t have another moment alone with the boy. Well, almost alone. The dad was still standing in the bedroom doorway.

“Did you know my son long, Officer?” the father asked.

“No, not too long,” Andy replied as he let out a long sigh. Turning from the boy, he scanned the bedroom. Toys were scattered across the floor, along with a variety of clothes.

Typical kid’s room. The sheets and blankets of both bunk beds were strewn about, which seemed odd if Gabe slept in the room by himself. “Did you stay in this room with your son, sir?”

“No, he’s a big boy. He’s able to sleep in his room all by himself,” the dad smiled and said.

If my old man wasn’t already about to pop, that smile put him over the edge. He couldn’t figure out how any father worth a dime could carry on a normal conversation right after his son died in his arms. “Which bed was your son sleeping in?” Andy asked. He also wondered why such a small room had bunk beds if Gabe was the only child in the house.

“I tucked him into the bottom bunk, but I guess he climbed up on top sometime during the night. You know how kids are.” That’s just it. Andy didn’t know how kids were, but he nodded his head as if he did and kept studying the father. About that time he heard the dispatcher notifying the local ambulance service, which back then was run by the volunteer fire department.

“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t catch your name,” Andy said.

“John, John Phillips. And you?” he replied with a smile as he stuck out his hand. Andy refused it, using the blood on his hand as a convenient excuse. Funny. I’ve never known anyone who shakes with his left hand. “

“Officer Andrew Myers,” he replied.

“Are you the same Andy Myers who took my boy to a ball game a few weeks ago?” Andy nodded. “Oh, I have to tell you, my son never stopped talking about that game. He had the time of his life. Thank you for taking him.”

Andy didn’t reply. The ball game felt like a lifetime ago. I guess in a way it was, because nothing was ever the same after my dad walked into that apartment. Nothing.

Copyright © 2008 by Stephen Baldwin

Thursday, November 06, 2008

CFBA: Out Of Her Hands - Megan DiMaria


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Out Of Her Hands

Tyndale House Publishers (September 22, 2008)

by

Megan DiMaria



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I was born and raised in New York State and have since lived in Maine, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey, and now I live in Colorado. My husband and I have three delightful, adult children and an old Jack Russell Terrier named
Belle who seems to find her way into my novels. My resume will tell you I graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in Communications, and after graduation I worked as a radio and television reporter, freelance writer, editor and marketing professional.

I'm a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and am assistant director of Words For The Journey, Rocky Mountain Region.

But what's most important to know about me is that I am a follower of Jesus, wife, mother, friend, reader and writer.

Life’s a journey, enjoy the adventures!


ABOUT THE BOOK

In this second novel by Megan DiMaria, Linda Revere is back and continuing to struggle with the turmoil of contemporary life. Linda has been praying for her children's future spouses since they were very small. Confident that her prayers will be answered, Linda is not prepared for the young woman her son brings home. But Linda soon learns that while everything she once controlled is out of her hands, God is still in control. Megan uses her trademark humor while dealing with issues to which her readers will relate.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Out Of Her Hands, go HERE

"No sophomore slump for DiMaria! This novel (Out of Her Hands) is as engaging and meaningful as her first, Searching for Spice. Her realistic portrayal of the characters' lives should endear them to readers and help Christians to feel less alone in their daily trials."
~Romantic Times Magazine, 4 ½ stars TOP PICK!

“Life in Linda's world is messy...but filled with love, laughter, struggle and faith. Megan has created a most real heroine for us to love...and I adore her!”
~Deena Peterson, reviewer: A Peek at my Bookshelf

“Megan DiMaria crafts a novel so compelling, so real, you forget you're reading fiction.”
~Darcie Gudger, reviewer: TitleTrakk

"This is a great read for a quiet afternoon or in those times when you feel your own life spinning out of control and need the reality check of knowing you're not in it alone."
~Amazon reviewer

In Memory of Michael Crichton


Michael Crichton, author of many bestselling novels, including Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, died Tuesday. He was 66.

Mr. Crichton was the creator of one of my favorite shows – ER.